The short answer? A central AC unit should last anywhere from 10 to 15 years (according to Energy.gov).
The long answer? Your AC unit was designed to last up to 15 years but it can die a lot sooner if you neglect and abuse it.
Want to make sure your AC unit lives a long, healthy life? Then give it some TLC with these 5 tips:
- Set your thermostat at a reasonable temperature
- Keep shades and blinds drawn during day
- Change your filter
- Clean outdoor unit
- Get regular maintenance
We’ll explain each of these tips in detail.
Tip #1: Set your thermostat at a reasonable temperature
The lower you set your thermostat temperature, the harder and longer your AC has to work to maintain that temperature. And the more you overwork your AC, the shorter it will live.
So what exactly is a “reasonable” temperature?
Well, we suggest keeping your thermostat set to 78 degrees Fahrenheit while you’re at home but raising it even higher while you’re not home. This will control how hard your air conditioner has to run.
But if you don’t want to constantly remember to adjust the thermostat, consider investing in a programmable thermostat that can do this automatically for you.
Tip #2: Keep shades and blinds drawn during the day
Closing the shades and blinds during the day decreases the amount of heat that infiltrates your home.
In fact, according to Energy.gov, when blinds are completely closed and lowered on a sunny day, they can reduce the heat load by up to 45%. And less heat means less work for your AC, which will prolong its life.
Tip #3: Change your filter
A filter that isn’t regularly replaced can accumulate a thick layer of dust. And a clogged filter will put strain on your system and eventually cause damage and/or even kill your AC.
You see, your air conditioner needs to “breathe” in a healthy amount of air from inside your home. But a clogged filter can suffocate your unit, causing all sorts of AC problems, including:
- Short cycling
- Frozen refrigerant coils
- Overworked blower motor
- High energy bills
So check your air filter every two months or so and when it looks like the filter to the right (in the picture above), replace it with a new filter.
Tip #4: Clean outdoor unit
If your AC’s outdoor unit is suffocated by dirt or debris, it will decrease the life of your system.
Your condenser coil (the outdoor unit) is responsible for dumping all the heat from inside your home outdoors. But if the outdoor unit is covered in dirt, the condenser has a hard time getting rid of that heat, forcing your AC to work harder to cool your home.
And over time, the additional stress of a dirty condenser coil will shorten the life of the compressor. And because the compressor is so expensive (up to $3,500 to replace it), most homeowners end up just replacing the entire unit.
How to clean your outdoor unit:
- Shut power off to your system. The disconnect box should be located next to your outdoor unit.
- Rinse the condenser fins with a hose on a gentle setting. You can even apply a condenser coil cleaner before rinsing the coils down with water.
- Rinse off until all dirt and debris are removed.
- Turn power back on.
Tip #5: Get AC maintenance annually
According to Energy.gov, regular maintenance extends the life of your AC unit. But regular maintenance can also:
- Reduces the chance of a breakdown or costly repairs
- Increases the efficiency of your system
- Lowers your monthly cooling bills
- Keeps your AC warranty valid (if maintained by a certified HVAC tech)
We suggest getting your air conditioner maintained once a year, preferably right before the cooling season.
And the best part? During the maintenance visit, your tech will also replace your air filter and clean your outdoor unit (if both are needed).