This is probably the most commonly asked question, especially from homeowners whose HVAC units have more than a few miles on the clock. The problem is, it’s actually quite a difficult question to answer when there is no exact answer.
Why? Because there are a number of variables that can have a considerable influence on how long an HVAC unit will last. These include the type of fuel used, the environment, and the frequency of maintenance and servicing.
In a dry and clean environment, with regular maintenance and servicing, a gas-fired HVAC unit can last up to thirty years and function efficiently throughout that period. However, it should be noted that HVAC units built today are appreciably more energy efficient compared to those built twenty or thirty years ago. Additionally. if you live near the sea, then the atmosphere will contain salt, and that can be seriously corrosive for HVAC units, reducing their lifespan down to as few as ten years.
Another factor which is seldom taken into account, is whether the unit was the correct size for the property when installed, or have there been any extensions added to the property? There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that can be taken with HVAC units, but if you want to guarantee your unit breaks down and needs replacing far sooner than it should be, then install one which is too small for your home, which will force you to run it too often, and frequently for too long, at maximum output. That is never a smart move and it is also not very fuel efficient either, even for a brand-new HVAC unit.
As a rule of thumb, a well-maintained and appropriately sized gas-fired HVAC should last up to 30 years, while an oil-fired unit under the same conditions is likely to survive only for 10-15 years. Add a salty atmosphere and you can cut those figures in half!
Where air conditioning units are concerned, they should work up to approximately 20 years, but may last only seven if not properly maintained or if used in a coastal property.
At the end of the day, the most critical element of your HVAC is the heat exchanger. Once that starts to fail, you’re looking at a total unit replacement. And the best way to maximize the lifespan of a heat exchanger is not to overburden it, and get it regularly serviced. When you compare the cost of a new HVAC unit to the cost of a regular maintenance contract, all of a sudden that regular maintenance doesn’t seem so expensive after all!
One of the biggest problems facing new home owners – new owners of an older home – is the history of any existing HVAC unit. We believe it’s never too late to overhaul and service an older HVAC unit to ensure that it lasts as long as possible. If you find yourself in that position, then why not give us a call and invite us out. We’ll be pleased to advise you what lies ahead with regard to your home heating unit.