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What's the Average Lifespan of a Central Air Conditioning Unit?

“How much longer will this central air conditioner work well?”

Buyers regularly ask Mick or me about the average lifespan of a central air conditioner, usually by asking, “How much longer do you think this system will work well?” It’s an excellent question, especially if you’re buying a home where summer gets hot, and a home with malfunctioning air conditioning makes you feel like you’re living in an attic. According to the US Department of Energy,The ‘lifespan’ of a central air conditioner is about 15 to 20 years.” Obviously, some units malfunction before the 15-year mark, and others work reliably for more than 30 years.

“What can I do to make a central air conditioning system last longer?”

Here are some tips from several companies that install and/or service A/C systems:

Keep the outside unit clean and free from weeds and debris.

Regularly wipe or gently spray the outside unit during the cooling season. Units that are covered in debris work harder. Weeds, flowers or shrubbery that grow close to the unit impede air flow and also add stress to the unit. A good rule of thumb is to allow 2 feet of space between your A/C unit and any vegetation.

Maximize the air flow to your system inside your home.

Greater air flow allows your system to work more efficiently. Make sure that you don’t impede airflow by placing furniture, appliances or curtains over the vents.

Replace the filters regularly.

If your system tells you when the filters need to be replaced, assume that the “system genie” is right, and replace the filters. If it doesn’t alert you, assume that your filters need to be changed every 90 days. If you have a 4-legged pet who lives in your home, the recommended number between filter changes drops to 60 days.

Minimize the amount of heat you add to your home during daylight hours.

If it’s warm enough for you to run the air conditioner during the day, then you should try to avoid doing household activities that heat the air in your home. Postpone baking cookies, drying clothes, and running the dishwasher until the evening hours. Hang energy-efficient curtains or blinds over your windows. Keep the curtains drawn during the hours when sunlight shines through those windows. This will extend the life of your A/C system and will also decrease your power bill.

Have your system serviced regularly.

Regular servicing is to air conditioning systems what annual medical check-ups are to individuals. They can often identify anomalies before they become huge problems and generally keep the system in good working order.

In a Nutshell:

  • You could reasonably expect an air conditioning system to last anywhere from 15-25 years.

  • Systems are more apt to last longer if you:

    • Keep the outside unit clean and free from weeds and debris.

    • Maximize the air flow to your system.

    • Replace the filters regularly.

    • Minimize the amount of heat you add to your home during daylight hours.

    • Service your system regularly.

At Walker’s Riverside Properties, “We Do the HOMEwork for You.” We would love to help guide you seamlessly through your next purchase or sale of a home. Contact us at or



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