Your home HVAC system is the most expensive system in your home. On average, a complete system can cost as much as $4,000 to $10,000. This is no small expense for any homeowner. 

Unfortunately, it will not last forever and eventually will need to be replaced. Let’s take a look at what you can expect to get out of your investment and what you can do to increase your HVAC lifespan.

Picture of modern HVAC system installation in a home basement.


How long do they typically last?

The average life expectancy of a heating and cooling system is roughly 15 to 20 years. The good news is that some of the system components can last even longer than that. The bad news is that others may not.

Many factors can dramatically impact the life of the system. For example, due to salt exposure, HVAC systems in coastal regions have an average life expectancy of 7 to 12 years.

These are also mechanical systems that rely on routine maintenance for longevity. Therefore, proper upkeep of the system is a determining factor in how long it will last.

Life expectancy of major components:

  • Furnace: 20 years
  • AC Unit:  15-20 years
  • Heat Pump: 10-20 years

Will I know it needs to be replaced?

Knowing whether the system requires repairs or a total overhaul can come down to a judgment call. After all, the system is comprised of many different components that all have various life expectancies.

But when one part of the system fails, it can be easy to separate from the others with some basic troubleshooting.

When the entire system is nearing the end of its life, there are some dead giveaways. You are likely to notice a lack of airflow or even faulty thermostat readings. The worn-out system will have difficulties delivering air to rooms throughout the home or getting them to the desired temperature.

Other signs to watch out for are increased indoor humidity, leaks around significant components, and foul odors from the vent registers.

Signs the system needs replacement:

  • Foul Odors
  • Indoor Humidity
  • Leaks
  • Poor Air Flow
  • Bad Thermostat

Your home HVAC system is the most expensive system in your home

Are there ways to prolong my unit?

In any case, you will want to know what you can do to prolong your HVAC system’s lifespan. The most important thing you can do is reduce strain on the system through regular maintenance and otherwise.  

The harder the system has to work to perform its job, the shorter its lifespan will be. This doesn’t mean you need to be an HVAC technician to prolong your home system’s life, though. It does help to be knowledgeable or have professional help, but there are some steps any homeowner can take.

  • Regular upkeep: Regular upkeep of the system will help it last longer. If there are small issues, such as failing pilot lights, faulty electrical connections, or so on, addressing them as soon as possible reduces wear and tear.
  • Preventative maintenance plans: Waiting for parts to fail before replacing them can be as harmful as not replacing them at all. You can set up a preventative maintenance plan with your HVAC contractor to prevent failures. An HVAC technician will come and inspect the system from top to bottom and will anticipate any future issues. This allows you to prevent them from happening at all.
  • Reduce clutter: HVAC systems rely on proper airflow to function. Anything that restricts airflow will cause the system to work harder than it needs to. Regularly make sure no clutter is present in front of vent registers and outdoor units to help prevent this issue.
  • Clean vents and ducts regularly: Toys and furniture aren’t the only things that can reduce airflow. Dust, leaves, and shrubs are real threats to the system’s function. Take the time to make sure that the ducts and vent registers are clear of these threats regularly to reduce strain on the system.
  • Replace air filters regularly: All of the dust, dirt, pollen, and pet dander in your home will collect on the air filter. These will eventually clog the filter, reduce airflow, and can cause severe issues for significant components. It is crucial to replace the filters regularly. It is suggested to change them every three months, but one can realistically expect to do so once a month.
  • Insulation of ducts: Uninsulated ducts can reduce a system’s efficiency by as much as 30-percent. This will ultimately lead to the system having to work harder each time it cycles. Adding insulation to ductwork helps reduce heat transfer, making it easier for the HVAC system to function under normal conditions.

Concluding Thoughts

Eventually, the HVAC system will fail. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth taking every step you can to prolong its lifespan. Each step has the additional benefit of creating high efficiency of the system. In doing so, you are ensuring it will last as long as possible but cutting down energy costs.