Several Factors Determine HVAC System Longevity

With any modern heating and cooling system, it’s essential to have an approximate idea of how long the system can be expected to operate effectively and efficiently. A closely related bit of knowledge is what you can do as a homeowner to make your HVAC system operate as optimally as possible, as long as possible.

While the type of heating or cooling system, and whether it was correctly sized and installed in your home, obviously are important factors in system longevity, your own maintenance of the equipment also plays a key role.

A new air conditioner or heat pump system these days typically can be expected to last 12 years more or less, while a combustion furnace or boiler may have a life span of 15-20 years. Of course, there are outliers in HVAC system longevity, though it’s safe to say that once your system reaches the outer reaches of those estimated service lives, system efficiency and performance are in decline. Plus, of course, as the years pass, a system that was state of the art at the time of purchase can no longer boast that that’s the case.

Factors That Impact HVAC System Longevity

Maintenance: If your HVAC system doesn’t receive routine seasonable maintenance, plus basic homeowner care, it probably will start experiencing malfunctions earlier and more often than it might have otherwise. A lack of maintenance also is likely to result in issues that are less easy to discern, such as a gradual diminution in energy efficiency. And more to the point of this article, any system that doesn’t get regular maintenance will have little chance of lasting its full estimated service life.

Amount of usage. HVAC equipment resembles other types of machinery in one important respect: The more it’s used, the shorter its service life, and conversely, the less it’s used, the longer it can be expected to last. To understand how this works, just think of your family car. If you have two cars of the same type and age, the one that only has 40,000 miles on its odometer will last longer than the one that has 100,000 miles. With cooling and heating systems, climate is the important factor. A cooling system operating a few months a year in a northern climate probably will last much longer than the same system operating most of the year in Texas or Florida.

Your own choice: As mentioned earlier, it’s a fact of life that machinery, including HVAC systems, will lose some of its efficiency and effectiveness over time. It’s also true that in the heating and cooling industry, technological advancements occur at such a fast pace that a system that was state of the art when you bought it will be considered almost obsolete in 10 or 15 years. At some point, if an old AC, heat pump or furnace is cooling or heating your home, you may come to the decision that you need an upgrade in both efficiency (for saving energy and money) and performance (for better home comfort).

As for how often to schedule maintenance on your HVAC system, most experts recommend twice a year, once for your cooling system and once for your heating system. Your primary homeowner maintenance task involves checking the air filter for your forced-air system once a month, and replacing the filter when it appears clogged or dirty.