How long will your HVAC system last? This Old House says that a furnace will last between 15 to 25 years and an air conditioning unit between 10 and 15 years on average. The team at Lakeview Heating and Cooling has seen units last far longer with diligent maintenance, and we’ve also seen customers prematurely need new HVAC systems — which don’t come cheap — because of neglect. So how can you prolong the life of an HVAC system?
Prolonging Your System’s Life
The steps you’ll take to prolong your HVAC system’s life are simple enough that anyone can do them. So take them!
Buy Good Filters
Cheap filters aren’t the savings they seem to be at first. That’s because fiberglass filters don’t filter well and need more frequent replacement. Your best bet is a pleated filter, especially if it’s electrostatically charged. Not only do they filter the air better, some of them can even be cleaned for reuse so you can go longer between replacements.
Replace Filters On Schedule
Most manufacturers suggest replacing filters every 90 days. That’s just a guideline. If you have pets that shed, if you keep the windows open for fresh air, or if you smoke, you’ll find yourself changing filters more often. You should check your filter monthly so you can replace it when it’s needed.
If your cat’s bed, a piece of furniture, or another obstruction is close to your intake, you’re decreasing system efficiency while also raising the risk of overheating. Always keep a minimum clearance of two feet around vents, intakes, and equipment.
Exterior units should also be free of obstructions and debris. Keep leaves, lawn debris, and twigs away from the unit to keep it free from damage.
Inspect the Unit
Check your unit monthly. The lines should be free of damage, the insulation intact, and the other components (like the housing) free of rust.
Your system can accumulate contaminants like algae and mold that can proliferate and clog your system. Mix one cup of bleach with one cup of water and pour it down the condensate drain annually. It’ll kill off many contaminants, keeping your system clog-free.
Use Only What You Need
You’re not using your furnace in the summer, so shut down the furnace humidifier and its water supply. Replace the humidifier filter at the same time. You won’t need it again until the temperature drops.
Keep Vents Open
You won’t need to heat or cool every room all the time. If you have a disused guest bedroom, or if the den doesn’t get as much use as it once did, there’s nothing wrong with closing the register in that room. However, you’ll cause system strain if at least 80 percent of your registers aren’t open. Consider a zone dampening system if you’re looking for more efficiency.
Replace Your CO Detector Battery
Your CO detector won’t save your furnace, but it could save your life. Change batteries at the same time you change smoke detector batteries. For many people, scheduling battery changes when Daylight Savings Time starts and ends is a great reminder.
When Do You Need a New HVAC System?
Maybe you’re already doing these things and you’re diligent about maintenance and the occasional repair. If enough time has passed, it may still be worth considering a replacement. For starters, Air Conditioning systems and furnaces lose efficiency over time. The system that gave you 80 percent efficiency initially may only be giving you 40 percent efficiency now, draining your wallet through higher energy bills even if you’ve staved off major repairs.
Second, new Air Conditioners and Furnaces are better designed — and much more efficient — than their older counterparts. That efficiency does come at a cost initially, but often pays for itself off over time (quicker than you’d think, in fact). You may also be able to take advantage of energy efficiency rebates and incentives.