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how long does an air conditioner last

How Long Does An Air Conditioner Last? Everything You Need To Know

In states like Arizona, air conditioners are absolutely essential. In fact, depending on where you live, it’s not uncommon to run your air conditioner year-round. But how long does an air conditioner last under these circumstances? In this post, we’ll discuss the various factors that influence the longevity of these essential machines.

How Long Does An Air Conditioner Last? Factors To Consider

A row of air conditioners used to represent the concept "how long does an air conditioner last?"

Here are the various factors that can impact how long your air conditioner lasts.


In northern regions of the United States, air conditioners can last as long as 20 years. While you can still achieve similar longevity in southern climates, you’ll have to maintain your air conditioner more rigorously. Check out this post for a breakdown of what you should be doing to maintain your air conditioner on a regular basis.

Air Conditioner Type

Not all air conditioners are the same, of course. Here’s how long you can expect each type of air conditioner to last.

How Long Do Central Air Units Last?

Your central air conditioner should last between 16 and 20 years. That means the primary units, including the interior and exterior components. You’ll likely change individual parts (filters being not the least of which) several times throughout the unit’s lifespan.

How Long Should A Window Air Conditioner Last?

Most window air conditioners last about 10 years. Keeping the unit clean and free of mold is key to achieving this. In this article, we discussed some steps for dealing with mold in your window air conditioner, which is a surprisingly common occurrence.

Your Maintenance Schedule

It’s impossible to answer the question “how long should an air conditioner last?” without bringing up maintenance. At American Home Water and Air, we recommend having your air conditioner serviced at least twice annually. Check out this post for a detailed explanation of why that’s the best interval. If you live in the Phoenix area, you can learn more about our comprehensive 40-point checkup here.

In a nutshell, having your air conditioner serviced regularly helps you avoid bigger problems that would otherwise spell the unit’s death. Servicing is fairly cheap and helps you retain peace of mind.

In addition to having a professional service your air conditioner bi-annually, it’s a good idea to give it some TLC on a monthly basis yourself. At the very least, you should be changing or cleaning your filters.

Which Brand Of Air Conditioner You Purchase

Not all air conditioners are created equal. Sticking to well-known brands like Goodman and Trane will help you get much better mileage out of your unit. In addition to being built more reliably, these air conditioners come with comprehensive warranties ensuring their continued performance. Further, any technician worth their salt will know how to service and acquire parts for a Trane air conditioner. You can’t say the same for some of the unknown brands out there.

How Long Should An Air Conditioner Last? Tips For Maximum Longevity

Now that you know how long an air conditioner lasts (roughly 16-20 years for central units and about 10 for window ones if you take care of them), let’s take a look at some little-known tips for achieving the upper end of that range. 

Choose The Right Size Air Conditioner

Many people assume that an oversized air conditioner will cool their homes faster and more efficiently. That’s patently false. Oversized air conditioners run intermittently, which adds additional wear and tear. An undersized unit, meanwhile, will have to work harder. You may also find that you have to close vents throughout your house in order to direct the limited airflow where it’s needed. This reduces the unit’s efficiency and can cause other problems in your home, such as mold.

Of course, neither of these scenarios are ideal. You should purchase a correctly-sized air conditioner to avoid these complications.

Change Your Filters Monthly

If you’re anything like the average homeowner, you probably grossly underestimate the importance of changing your air conditioner’s filters. Filters clogged with dust and debris force the unit to work a lot harder than it should. Dirty filters also impact your home’s air quality, which you obviously don’t want as it may decrease your lifespan, too!

Find A Comfortable Temperature And Stick To It

Mechanical systems don’t really appreciate change. Sure, a good air conditioner will be able to handle you changing the temperature constantly throughout the day. It won’t necessarily thrive under those circumstances, though. You’ll achieve better performance if you choose a temperature and stay within its ballpark.

Clean Your Coils Regularly

Cleaning your air conditioner’s coils is an underrated activity. These components are responsible for helping air move through your HVAC system. In other words, you could say they’re pretty important. You should take the time to clear away debris such as branches and leaves that can often cram their way into your air conditioner’s coils.

Make Sure Your Condenser Fins Aren’t Bent

An air conditioner’s condenser fins are also very important. They held dissipate heat from your home. If something’s ever aggressively brushed up against your outdoor unit, there’s a chance some of these fins might be bent out of shape. This impedes the heat transfer and, you guessed it, reduces your air conditioner’s lifespan. Restoring these fins is as simple as gently bending them back into shape using a metal tool. Contact a professional if you’re not sure how to do this as you really don’t want to break one of the fins.

How Long Should An Air Conditioner Last? Conclusion

A central air conditioner should last roughly 16-20 years under optimal conditions. Window air conditioners, meanwhile, last roughly 10 years. The key to achieving this longevity is maintaining your air conditioner regularly and choosing a good product, to begin with.

If you live in the Phoenix area and need help with either of these things, give American Home Water and Air a call. We’ve been proudly serving this city for more than 30 years and would love to give you a hand!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a central air conditioner last?

Central air conditioners last roughly 16-20 years under optimal conditions. That includes proper maintenance, cleaning, and product selection.

How long should a window air conditioner last?

A window air conditioner, meanwhile, should last roughly 10 years. Make sure you keep the unit’s interior free of mold and mildew if you’d like to achieve that.

How long should an air conditioner compressor last?

An air conditioner compressor should last as long as the rest of the unit does – about 16-20 years in the case of central air conditioners.

How long does air conditioner ductwork last?

Ductwork begins to deteriorate around the 15-year mark, which is when you should consider replacing it. However, the ductwork is unlikely to fail completely until it’s around 20 years old.

How long does a capacitor last in an air conditioner?

Your capacitor should also last for the air conditioner’s entire lifespan. An undersized air conditioner can shave this down substantially, however, so remember to get an accurate calculation of how much cooling power you need.

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