If you need to install any type of central HVAC system, one factor you should always consider is how long you can expect the new system to last. The typical life expectancy for an HVAC system can differ depending on what type it is (i.e., furnace, standard AC or heat pump). There are also a variety of other factors that can come into play, so this guide will explain how long different types of HVAC systems last and how to ensure you get the most out of your system.

Typical Lifespan for Gas and Electric Furnaces

The average lifespan for most gas furnaces is somewhere around 15 years, but sometimes a gas furnace will last for 20 years or more. The type of gas furnace you have will often play a role in how long it should last. Two-stage and variable-speed furnaces usually have a longer lifespan than single-stage furnaces. The reason is that single-stage furnaces always operate at full capacity. Because of that, they put more wear and tear on their parts than furnaces with multiple speeds.

Two-stage furnaces have two speeds their blowers can operate at, using each when it deems it appropriate to save energy while still heating your space. They tend to operate on their lower setting around 80% of the time. In turn, this puts less wear and tear on their parts, which strains the system less. Variable-speed furnaces can have several hundred different settings and will automatically adjust how much heat they circulate as needed. Even though variable-speed furnaces are meant to be on almost constantly, they still typically last the longest since they don’t have to work nearly as hard.

Electric furnaces will almost always last longer than gas ones and have an average lifespan of between 20 and 30 years. One problem with electric furnaces is that they use much more energy than gas furnaces. However, depending on the cost of energy versus gas in your area, the price of running your system may actually be lower with an electric furnace. Also, electric furnaces don’t produce carbon emissions like gas furnaces do. That said, electric furnaces are usually a better option for warmer climates since they don’t produce as much heat as a gas furnace and aren’t nearly as energy efficient as a heat pump.

Average Central Air Conditioner Lifespan

Central air conditioners also typically last for somewhere around 15 years. As with gas furnaces, whether the air conditioner is a single-stage, two-stage or variable-speed system can impact how long it will last. The local climate is also a major factor.

Air conditioners will usually last longer in places where the summers are shorter, cooler and drier than they will in places where the summers are long, hot and humid. One reason for this is that the more hours an AC system runs each year, the sooner all of its components and motors will start wearing out. The other reason is that air conditioners have to work much harder and strain further in hotter and more humid climates.

Average Heat Pump Lifespan

Heat pumps usually have the shortest lifespan of any central HVAC system since they both heat and cool, running year-round instead of seasonally. Some heat pumps may last for up to 15 years, but most will end up giving out in around 10 to 12 years. As with a standard central AC system, climate can make a major difference in how long a heat pump lasts.

Heat pumps tend to last slightly longer in places with more mild summers and winters. If a heat pump is frequently exposed to extreme heat or cold, it will usually have a decreased life expectancy. Heat pumps also typically don’t last as long in coastal climates since the salty sea air can cause them to corrode more quickly, though this is also true with central air conditioners.

Why Regular Maintenance Is Essential for Protecting the Life of Your HVAC System

The single biggest factor that will determine how long any HVAC system can last is if it is properly maintained. Without professional maintenance, all HVAC systems will eventually start experiencing a variety of issues that can greatly shorten their lifespan. This is why experts recommend that you always have your HVAC system professionally serviced and inspected at least once a year. If your home has both a furnace and a standard central AC system, you should have your heating system serviced every fall and your AC system serviced each spring. If you use a heat pump for heating and air conditioning, it should ideally be serviced once in the spring and again in the fall.

Scheduling a tune-up and service appointment every year will help ensure that your heating and air conditioning continues operating at its peak effectiveness. This is important since a heating or cooling system that isn’t performing effectively will need to run for longer to fully heat or cool your home. If your system’s heating or cooling cycles are constantly much longer than they should be, your HVAC system won’t last nearly as long. You will also likely end up needing to have the system repaired more frequently and potentially have to pay for much more costly repairs. A lack of preventative maintenance will also lead to the system using more energy and cause your heating or cooling bills to be much higher.

In addition to professional maintenance, making sure to replace your HVAC system’s air filter regularly will also help to protect and possibly extend the life of your furnace, AC or heat pump. Most HVAC manufacturers recommend replacing the air filter every 90 days. However, there are times when you may need to replace the filter as often as every month. This is especially the case if you have indoor pets since pet hair will cause the filter to clog up more quickly. There may also be times when you can use the same filter for longer. The best way to know when your filter needs to be changed is just to check its condition every few weeks and replace it when you can’t see through it. Of course, if you have a reusable filter, you can usually clean it instead of replacing it.

As the air filter starts to clog, it restricts how much air flows through the HVAC system and greatly decreases its effectiveness. This again leads to longer cooling or heating cycles and increases the wear on the entire HVAC system. A clogged filter can also lead to a furnace overheating or the AC evaporator coil freezing, both of which can potentially cause major damage. Running your air conditioning when the coil is frozen is especially dangerous since it can cause the compressor motor in the AC system or heat pump to burn out.

Other Factors That Can Influence How Long an HVAC System Lasts

While maintenance is the biggest factor in the life of your HVAC system, there are a variety of other factors that can also play a role. One important factor is the brand of system you have. While system from trusted manufacturers like Trane and Amana cost a bit more, they are often well worth the extra money since they tend to be higher quality and last longer.

Another factor is whether your HVAC system is properly sized. Oversized and undersized systems tend to have far more problems that can greatly decrease their lifespan.

The energy efficiency of an HVAC system can also be a major factor. High-efficiency ones tend to last longer, as they heat or cool more effectively and don’t experience as much strain as low- or mid-efficiency systems.

If you’re looking to get the most out of your HVAC system, you can count on the experts at Landen Heating and Cooling for help. We specialize in heating and cooling maintenance and repairs, and our technicians work on every make and model. We also offer professional HVAC installation and a full range of indoor air quality services for residential customers in the Zebulon area. Give us a call if you have any questions or to schedule a tune-up or any other HVAC service.

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