Air Conditioners & Furnaces, When Should I Get A New One?

There is no question that most homeowners fear the costs involved with the purchase of a new air conditioner or furnace. In addition, they fret over finding the best person to install them and get the job done correctly. All of these concerns are so important because one wants to have these jobs done when they are best in a position to afford them and not put anything off to a time when they would either be forced to borrow money from family or friends or have to take out a loan to get the job done. The good news for you is that following in this article is some basic advice and suggestions that can assist you in avoiding any pitfalls.

The first good news for you is that you are not by yourself when you begin thinking about the repair or the replacement of your aging equipment and system. In the field of HVAC contracting, these questions are truly on the minds of so many.

The fact of the matter is that technology advancements have in fact prolonged the life cycle of so many industry products, but at the same time, they have created the need to replace equipment more often so as to be able to take advantage of those most efficient systems offered in today’s marketplace.

The fact of the matter is that operational costs do in fact, decrease in conjunction with efficiencies increasing, causing homeowners to understand more just how important HVAC equipment has become great. The one question which continues to be on their mind is the difference between what their expectation of the equipment’s use might be and what the contractors might be.

How Long Should It Last?

In determining just how long a system should last, there are many different factors to be considered. Among these are things such as daily running hours, how well the equipment has been attended to, it’s proximity to any contaminants that are corrosive, If any retrofits or major repairs have been done, and whether mission-critical spaces are serviced by the equipment and professionals in the field have ruled that it simply cannot afford to break down. Taking all these variables into consideration, a range of 10-30 years is seen as the lifetime range with the average being about 20.

Depending on precisely what piece of equipment might be under consideration, there are other differences.

One professional in the field, speaking as both a professional and a consumer, recently stated that they had an expectation of the furnace lasting 20 years. And because air conditioning units are typically outdoors and thus at the mercy of the weather, their life expectancy is a bit lower, approximately 15 years. The majority of professionals in the field agree that the “end of life” definition for any appliance is when it has endured operation for longer than two-thirds of what the life expectancy is and when the repairs that might be needed rise above 25 percent of what the cost would be to replace with a new unit. In addition, if a component such as refrigerant has become obsolete, or if parts needed for repair are no longer available, it is most likely that the equipment will need to be replaced.

According to those professionals in the field, a heat pump/cooling system which is installed properly should last 15-20 years. And when it comes to gas furnaces, the lifeline should be even longer than this.

The lifetime of the properly sized and installed gas furnaces should be between 20 and 30 years. If the equipment is oversized, it will fail sooner. When it comes to just how long a system will last, major factors will include application, sizing, and maintenance. Of course, there are some other factors that should be considered. Included in these will be the behavior of the homeowner. Is the door to the exterior opened frequently? Is the thermostat being constantly changed? And then there are things such as environmental issues like the salt air which may be near any close coastlines. Still other matters like the quantity of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are introduced into the air via things like personal hygiene products, indoor air fresheners, scented laundry products, etc. In the performance and life expectancy of the equipment, these all play a role. This is why you want to make certain that the equipment you have for your home is properly sized and you certainly want to be sure it is not bigger than you need it to be.

You should also be aware that the on-off cycling raises a lot of issues when we are talking about the air conditioning, for the compressor, the hardest part involved in the start-up period. The lubrication is certainly not as good as when it was first purchased, and some oil which is pumped out will take more time to return. In addition, except for the newer, electronically controlled models, for most motors the initial electrical current is high. When it comes to the furnace, expansion, and contraction of the heat exchanger will result from the temperature differences between off and on. This will, of course, place more stress on it. All of these items have technicians considering starting, stopping, and cycling as factors that will shorten the life of the equipment. Due to the effect on cycling, proper sizing of equipment is truly vital.

Coastal Residents

Even though it is difficult under ordinary conditions to determine a system’s life expectancy, when the location is taken into account, it can be even more difficult.

There will be a much shorter lifespan in a coastal/subtropical environment according to many professionals in the field due to things like sulfur, saltwater, and chemicals which may have been used when the new residential communities were orange groves and tomato fields in the past. They also add that depending on how well the system is taken care of and just where it sits that it is lasting between 8 and 14 years. One company in Florida also points out that the system will be put to use cooling anywhere from 2,800 and 3,000 hours per year, and this quickly adds those miles up. There are also so many of the customers involved that had transplanted from the north to the south and usually held the same expectations for their a/c systems they had when they lived in the north.

The fact of the matter is that the expectations are much longer in northern states and Canada than they are in the majority of southern states. One Canadian HVAC owner has pointed out that he had so many clients with air conditioners between 30 and 40 years of age and furnaces 30-35 years old. They come south and see units 7 to 10 years old that are no longer operating properly. He proudly points out that his clients have seen their equipment often double its initial life expectancy and how “doing things right really always does pay off”!

Discussion of The Disconnect

The truth is that even those times that customers get an honest assessment of how long they can reasonably expect their equipment to last from a contractor, they do push to the max those limits. In addition, between different generations of customers, differences do exist.

One professional has pointed out how it is the thoughts of those in the 45 and up to age group that “things will last much longer. Just as I did, they would think the equipment will last at least 15-20 years. When it comes to the 35 and under consumer group who are more accustomed to purchasing things, the lifeline of air conditioning units and furnaces is typically thought to be between 12-15 years”.

The truth of the matter is that all professionals, technicians, and owners are in agreement that a substantial impact on the life cycle of the equipment is gained by consistent maintenance. They also understand the importance of quality over quantity when the subject of maintenance comes up. They know how the life expectancy of a unit may be increased by 25% or more by complete and proper checking of it.

The same as it is with one’s vehicle, the life of the equipment will be extended by keeping everything clean and charged. And just the same as one chooses their vehicle’s mechanic carefully; they should exercise the same caution and interest when the topic changes to their HVAC equipment.

I think that you can now see that when it comes to your air conditioner and furnace life expectancy, there are a lot of different factors involved. Regular maintenance and environmental factors both play a large role in just when they may require replacement.

One should also always be alert to the fact that there is, unfortunately, fraud existing in the marketplace. This makes it so important when going for maintenance to always check the rates of the different companies you are considering as well as the reviews of the contenders. You should also realize that if your equipment is still functioning past it’s expected a time of use, it may go at any time due to one reason or another. Make certain then that the next unit of equipment that you do purchase is, in fact, the one which is best suited to your personal needs, uses and area. Properly approaching these concerns can and will save you both time and money.