How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last?

Air conditioners last 10 to 25 years based on their quality and how heavily the unit is run. Of course, properly maintaining the unit is essential too, which includes having the coils cleaned every 1-3 years, checking the refrigerant level and many other items.  

There is no national average for how long an AC lasts – it really depends on your climate, as we’ll see below.

How Long Does a Central Air Conditioner Last?

Air conditioners are an expensive investment, even if you’re spending $400 on a window air conditioner or $600 on a portable air conditioner. Central air conditioners range from $4,500 to more than $10,000 installed.

  • Type of AC: Air conditioning units last a variety of different time lengths, depending on many different factors. First of all, central air conditioning units last the longest, followed by mini splits or heat pumps, window units, and then portable air conditioning units.
  • Proper maintenance: How often you service or maintain your air conditioning unit also is a major factor that determines its longevity. It is recommended that a central air conditioning system should be serviced every year in hot climates and every couple years in other places. This is done to ensure that everything is running properly and the system is working as efficiently as possible.
  • Your location: Where you live is also a huge factor in how long an air conditioning unit will last. Colder states, such as Michigan and New Hampshire, do not run their air conditioning unit as often as warmer states, like Florida or Texas.
  • Initial quality: A fourth factor that contributes to the longevity of an air conditioner is the brand and model of the air conditioner. Some brands are much more expensive and also have a longer, more positive track record for long-lasting air conditioning units.

Read on to find out more about how long your air conditioner will last, including what brands seem to be the best and much, much more information.

How Long Do AC Units Last in Different States?

The table below shows the average lifespan of an air conditioning unit in a number of cities throughout the United States. We included cities from all the various climate zones, from real hot climates to much colder climates. As you can see, the states that are in a hotter climate have their air conditioners last fewer years than climates that do not require year-round AC.

For example, an air conditioner in Rochester, New York, will last an average of 18 to 23 years. In comparison, in a hot climate, such as Miami, Florida, an air conditioner will only last an average of 10 to 15 years. The more often you run an air conditioner, the faster it will break down.

How Long Do AC Units Last in Different States

We calculated the average lifespan based on the yearly cooling hours of each state and city. The more the AC runs, of course, the earlier it could break down due to wear. 

California Los Angeles17 – 22 years
California San Diego17 – 22 years
California San Francisco20 – 25 years
TexasHouston11 – 16 years
TexasDallas13 – 18 years
FloridaJacksonville12 – 17 years
FloridaMiami10 – 15 years
New YorkNew York16 – 21 years
New YorkRochester18 – 23 years
PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia16 – 21 years
PennsylvaniaPittsburgh17 – 22 years
IllinoisChicago17 – 22 years
IllinoisRockford17 – 22 years
OhioColumbus17 – 22 years
OhioCongress 17 – 22 years
GeorgiaAtlanta14 – 19 years
GeorgiaColumbus13 – 18 years
North CarolinaCharlotte15 – 20 years
North CarolinaRaleigh15 – 20 years
MichiganDetroit17 – 22 years
MichiganGrand Rapids18 – 23 years
ArizonaPhoenix11 – 16 years
ArizonaTucson13 – 18 years
MarylandBaltimore16 – 21 years

Note: This table is based on Cooling degree days (CDD) of EIA and yearly cooling hour

How Long Will My AC? Longevity by Brands?

How long an air conditioner lasts also depends on the brand. For the most part, every brand of air conditioner usually will last at least 12 to 15 years. However, for some brands, such as Trane and American Standard, the average lifespan can be between 18 and 25 years, depending on where you live and how well the air conditioner is maintained.

The lower end brands, like Goodman and Payne, will only last an average of 12 to 20 years. So, the higher end models might cost more initially, but they will last at least 5 to 10 years longer. 

Pro buying tip: Most brands make basic, better and best air conditioners. For example, Carrier makes Infinity, which is top of the line. Performance is the mid-tier, highly popular line. And Carrier Comfort ACs are slightly lower in quality. There isn’t as much difference in quality among Carrier as there is in Lennox’s lines. The Lennox Signature Series, for example, is excellent. But the entry-level Merit Series ACs aren’t any better than Goodman – and might not be as good. 

Trane18 – 25 years
American Standard18 – 25 years
Carrier16 – 22 years
Lennox16 – 22 years
Rheem15 – 20 years
Ruud15 – 20 years
Daikin15 – 20 years
York15 – 20 years
Bryant16 – 22 years
Heil15 – 20 years
Goodman15 – 20 years
Payne12 – 18 years

Central Air Conditioner Common Parts Lifespan

There are average lengths for the most common parts to “go bad” on an air conditioner and when you can expect that to happen.

Capacitors are pretty inexpensive, but many parts are costly – and you should consider replacement of the entire unit if the repair bills start to mount up. See details below.

Central Air Conditioner Common Parts Lifespan

Central AC PartsLifespan
capacitor10 – 20 years
compressor10 – 15 years
evaporator coil10 – 15 years
fan motor10 – 15 years
condenser (the entire outdoor unit)15 – 20 years
air handler (indoor unit/furnace)15 – 20 years

How Long Do Other Types of Air Conditioners Last?

Initial quality and how heavily they get used are primary factors in how long other AC types last.

AC TypeLifespan
Window Air Conditioner10 – 20 years
Portable Air Conditioner5 – 10 years
RV Air Conditioner4 – 8 years
Ductless Mini Split15 – 20 years
Heat Pump10 – 15 years

When deciding what type of air conditioner to buy, you should consider the lifespan of each different type. Window air conditioners and ductless mini split units both last up to 20 years. Heat pumps are not far behind, with the average lifespan of between 10 and 15 years. Portable air conditioners and RV air conditioners do not last nearly as long as the other options, with portable air conditioners lasting between 5 and 10 years and RV air conditioners having an average lifespan of 4 to 8 years.

Should I Repair or Replace My Air Conditioner?

That is one of the tougher decisions out there. If there is a simple or easy fix, like a failed capacitor or fan motor, then it is a good idea to fix it. However, if there seems to be repair after repair needed, then it would be better to replace your air conditioner. Many HVAC companies and technicians usually go by a “rule of $5,000.” Basically, you multiply the cost of the repair by how old the air conditioner is. If the total cost is $5,000 or more, then it would be better to replace your air conditioner.

Signs Your Air Conditioner Needs to be Replaced

There are a number of signs out there that your air conditioner will need to be replaced. Below is a list of the most common warning signs that an air conditioner is wearing out and will need to be replaced:

  • You have to constantly repair your air conditioning system
  • Your AC system is more than 10 years old and has mechanical issues
  • There are odd or strange noises coming from the air conditioner system
  • The rooms in your home are not evenly cooled
  • Higher than normal energy costs
  • Your home seems to be more humid than normal
  • Warm, not cool air, blowing out of the vents
  • Leaks around the air conditioner system, either freon or water
  • Your air conditioning system has odd or strange odors coming from it

Frequently Asked Questions

How to extend the life of your air conditioner?

Air conditioners should be serviced twice a year by a professional HVAC technician, once in the fall and once in the spring. This will extend the lifespan of your air conditioner. The twice yearly maintenance calls will ensure that your air conditioner is clean, the parts are in good condition, and everything is running optimally.

How long does freon last in the air conditioner?

The easy answer to this question is that freon should last forever in your air conditioner. Freon does not get “used up” and an air conditioner is considered a “closed/sealed system.” This means that the refrigerant should not escape in any possible way.

Do heat pumps have a shorter lifespan than central air conditioners?

Heat pumps generally last an average of 15 years, so air conditioners have a longer average lifespan. The reason for this is that heat pumps heat and cool the home all year long, and air conditioners usually just work in the summer months, depending on where you live. Like all appliances, the more often you service and maintain your heat pump or air conditioner, the longer it will last.

Written by

Rene has worked 10 years in the HVAC field and now is the Senior Comfort Specialist for PICKHVAC. He holds an HVAC associate degree and EPA & R-410A Certifications.

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