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The Lifespan of an Air Conditioner

The Lifespan of an Air Conditioner

Like all things, eventually an air conditioner’s time will come to an end. We’re tentatively starting to see the first few signs of that much beloved autumn weather but it’s not quite here yet in Austin. Air conditioning is very much a necessity not a luxury. We’ve still got a little while longer before we stop relying on our air conditioning in Austin. And we do rely quite a bit on our air conditioners, in the summer and winter, and in between. Reasonably, we like to imagine that our air conditioners will continue working with no problems and no shutdowns in definitely. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality.

In reality, air conditioners have a lifespan. New air conditioners work better than old ones. They start to get wear and tear as they go through continuous usage day in and day out, year after year. All that air moving through the system, all the heating up and cooling down, the water and the freezing and gas and the liquid. It all moves through system and very slowly and its parts start to wear down. This tip is all about how long you can expect your air conditioner to last, how much you may be missing out by holding out on replacing your unit, and some factors that will help you make the decision of whether your air conditioner needs a simple repair or a complete replacement.

How Long Will Your AC Unit Last

This is the big question and all there are multiple factors to consider, making the answer not exactly straightforward and easy, there are some basic rules of thumb that have been developed to help make it easier. According to a recent American Home Comfort Study, the lifespans of different equipment tend to hover around the same marks. A properly maintained and installed furnace can last 20 years while an air conditioner and heat pump can last around 16 years and 14 years, respectively (on average).

So you’re looking at around 15 years of life, from first installment to its final dying breath. But what happens in between those years? Well, things are going to change a lot. The same AC unit isn’t going to work just the same when it’s fourteen and a half years old as when it’s three months old. You’re going to slowly loose energy efficiency, cooling power, and it’s going to become harder and harder to maintain and more likely to need repairs.

Of course, this is going to vary a lot based on the brand and quality of the original purchase. But perhaps the main factor in how long your air conditioner lasts is how well it’s maintained. As long as you maintain the system well and have regular tune-ups/servicing, you’ll find your system lasts a very long time. This means doing things like changing the air filters regularly, every one to three months or so. This means clearing debris from around the outside unit on a regular basis to make sure nothing gets caught up back there. It means making sure to get regular tune ups and preventative maintenance visits from a trusted Austin AC repair company. And it means checking on and replacing refrigerant insulation as necessary, as well as being on the lookout for any signs of possible damage or malfunction such as strange odors or sounds or spikes in energy bills.

That sounds like a lot, we know, but if it means the difference between having an air conditioner that lasts you 20 years with a very slow and minimal decrease in energy efficiency or having an air conditioner that lasts you 10 years and needs frequent costly repairs just to keep it afloat, the difference is worth the work.

In the end though, when talking about the life expectancy of your AC unit, you’re really talking about when the better judgment call switches from repairing to replacing. The end of an AC unit’s usefulness becomes when it makes more sense to buy a better, more energy efficient and less prone to breakdown model over repairing your current one. Technically, you should be able to repair your current air conditioner forever; parts can always be replaced after all but at a certain point that becomes no longer worth it. When that’s the case, replacing becomes the better option and your air conditioner has reached the natural end of its life cycle.

What Newer Units Have Over Older Ones

Technology in realm of air conditioning has advanced a lot over the past ten to fifteen years. This fact alone places a lot of weight on the replace side of the repair or replace equation. In this section, we’ll go over some of the main areas of interest in which newer models indisputably beat out older ones.

One factor that many might not consider at first glance is the type of refrigerant their air conditioner uses. Old systems most likely use R-22, an ozone-depleting refrigerant that was recently named harmful for the environment. Manufacturers are slowly phasing-out the use of R-22 and creating units that are compatible with R-410A. Initially R-410A was more expensive than R-22 but that gap has closed. Switch to R-410A now and save later.

And of course, a newer model will bring you greater comfort. Older models might have been the best money can buy back in the day, but times are constantly changing, and new technology means advanced comfort. A newer model can include advanced air filtration technology that will reduce allergens and contaminants in your home. Humidity is a factor too. As air moves across the evaporator coil of a well-functioning air conditioner, excess moisture is drawn out and then expelled outdoors via the condensate drain. As an AC unit gets older and less efficient at moving air, it’s not able to dehumidify a home as effectively.

Newer units can come with features that simply didn’t exist in older times as well, such as noise reduction technology. There’s a wide range of new technology that have come out in recently years that can optionally be included in a new air conditioner that you may purchase. New advancements in variable speed fans also mean you have the choice to purchase a new AC unit that has multi-speed technology, making it significantly more comfortable and energy efficient.

Energy efficiency in general is a big area where newer air conditioners excel over older ones. Air conditioning systems that are just 10 years old were installed in a time when the minimum SEER rating requirement was 10. Now that requirement has been raised to 13. That’s because technology has advanced to point where that requirement can be raised. More and more, higher end models can be found with SEER ratings as high as 26 these days. That’s a huge increase in energy efficiency. Getting a more energy efficient air conditioner is almost always worth it over the long run because the decrease in energy bills will soon overshadow the original cost of the upgrade.

The Question of Replace or Repair

So, the ultimate question becomes to replace or to repair. If you have an air conditioning unit that’s over 10 years old and it’s in need of dire repair, you’ll have to ask yourself this question. Your answer is going to depend on a number of factors such as how often you’ve found it’s needed repair in the past few years, how much you’re spending on energy bills and how much that’s increased over the years, and any lack in comfort you’ve noticed due to anything like improper humidity reduction or air filtering, as well as smaller factors such as excess noise and the like.

Energy efficiency is a big factor to consider. You may find that as your older unit ages, your energy bills have started slowly rise. This is natural, as AC units will become less effective at their job as they age. This, on top of the fact that your old unit probably has a relatively low SEER rating compared to most new models, means you could get a lot out of a new unit energy efficiency-wise. Replacing an older 10 SEER unit with a new 16 SEER model can cut 60 percent from your annual energy costs. Opting for an efficient Energy Star-rated unit can boost those savings by an additional 15 percent.

Older equipment is more prone to breakdowns too, so necessary repairs are more frequent. By replacing your AC unit before these problems escalate, you can save on energy and repair costs and avoid an inconvenient mid-cooling-season equipment failure. There’s very little point in continuing to throw money into a system year after year that has already become obsolete and is on its way out. It may be more expensive in this moment to purchase a whole new system but you have to think of the bigger picture. Choosing to replace rather than repair means choosing to pay for all the repairs it will continue to need and all the costs of maintenance and the higher energy bills. All of this adds up.

Then you also need to factor all the new features and technology that might make a new unit more appealing than keeping your old one alive and kicking. With a new unit you’re looking at the possibility of advanced noise reduction technology to make your unit quieter and out of the way. You’re also looking at the possibility of things like two-speed or invertor drives that can make your air conditioning experience exponentially more comfortable and energy efficient. Not to mention, a new unit is almost guaranteed to come with a better warranty than the one you’ve got now.

Air Conditioning Repair in Austin

All in all, the lifespan of an air conditioner is long and complicated. These machines aren’t just inert and static things that do their job day in and day out indefinitely with no changes inside or out. Wear and tear happens, breakdowns happen, repairs are needed and efficiency decreases. All this adds up to say that while you could feasibly keep repairing and maintaining an old system indefinitely, at a certain point it no longer becomes cost effective to do so. For most this usually happens between 10 and 15 years.

That being said, if your air conditioner hasn’t quite gotten to that point yet but it’s in need of some kind of repair now, consider AC Express for your AC repair in Austin. We operate all around the metropolitan area from Cedar Park and Georgetown to Lago Vista and Leander. Whether you’re looking for immediate same day AC repair or just a simple preventative maintenance check, you can count on AC Express. Call today!


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