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How long should an air conditioner last?

Tom Barrett - Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Tom Barrett, with Master Mechanical, Inc., serving the Northern Illinois and Chicago area, says that, “If you get 15 years out of a home air conditioner, you’re doing good.” The gist of that statement is that a lot of air conditioners will not last that long.

The good news is that homeowners can do something about it. As Barrett put it, there are things people can do to extend the life of the ac. There are a few of fundamental tips to help homeowners get the most out of an air conditioner. The primary tip is maintenance.

For some homeowners, the only contact they have with their air conditioner is when they turn the switch from “Heat” to “AC” after the passing of winter. Without regular maintenance, Barrett said people will be lucky to get 10 years out of an air conditioner.

He recommends having your ac inspected by a licensed HVAC professional once a year. The most likely time to inspect air conditioners is in the spring, before an ac unit is called upon to cool the home.

A professional will make sure that the compressor is operating correctly and will make sure that the unit is properly charged. If either of these factors are out of whack, the life of an air conditioner can be seriously shortened.

The compressor is inside the part of the air conditioner that is outside the home. If the coils are clogged, the ac unit will have to work much harder to do the job of cooling a home. Not only will this make the air conditioner more expensive to operate, it will also shorten the life of the unit.

When an HVAC professional comes out to a home to service an air conditioner, one part of that service is to clean the coils surrounding the compressor. Barrett said that cottonwood is the typical bane of air conditioners. That white fibrous material creates a matt over the coils and can virtually choke an ac unit.

While cleaning the coils is part of the process when calling in a technician, it’s also something the homeowner can do him or herself. Barrett said not to use a vacuum. Rather, he recommends using water and a hose. Don’t spray into the coil. Instead, spray down at a 45-degree angle to clear the debris away.

Another question is what to do with the compressor during the offseason. Actually, the units are made for the outdoors. It is not necessary to cover a compressor. Winter, generally, is not a problem for an air conditioner. Just, as was suggested above, make sure it is inspected and serviced at the start of each cooling season.