How long does a home's HVAC system last? Upgrading your HVAC system

Relaxing family on coach under energy efficient air conditioner

You may not think about your HVAC system until it's not working properly. But your HVAC system is one of the most important systems in your home, and it's important to know when it's time for an upgrade. Here are some signs that it's time to upgrade your home's HVAC system.

In this article, we share important answers to some questions like:

  1. How Long Do HVAC systems last?
  2. When should HVAC be replaced?
  3. What is the best HVAC replacement option?
  4. Is it possible to get a new HVAC at no cost upfront?

How long do HVAC systems last?

The average HVAC system lasts 10-25 years. However, this lifespan can be affected by a few things, such as: the current system setup, insulation, tune-ups, air sealing, temperature preferences, and climate.

The lifespan of your heating and cooling appliances depends on several factors, including:

  • the type of HVAC system in your home (e.g. boiler or furnace)
  • the amount of insulation in your home
  • whether or not you regularly perform HVAC maintenance/tune-ups

Most homeowners don't know that if their home isn't properly insulated or air sealed, it shortens the lifespan of their HVAC system. For example, if you have older insulation or gaps and cracks that cause heat escape, your heater and air conditioner are likely already being overworked. Upgraded attic insulation and professional air sealing work together to create a thermal boundary that keeps your HVAC system from wearing out prematurely.

How long do individual HVAC units last? When should HVAC be replaced?

The average residential Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system as a whole has a service life of 10-25 years. However, this can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the quality of the system, the level of maintenance it receives, and the climate it is used in. In general, systems that are well-maintained and used in moderate climates will last longer than those that are not.

The lifespan of your HVAC system is crucial to the health of your home. The type of system you have will play a big role in how long it lasts. Some of the most popular systems have the following life expectancy per each individual unit:

  • Window Unit AC - 10 years
  • Residential single whole-home unit - 15 years
  • Heat pumps - 15 years (and up to 20-25 years if well-maintained and in a well-insulated home)
  • Steam boilers - 15 to 35 years depending on the type of boiler
  • Furnace - 18 years Radiant heaters - 15 to 20 years depending on the type of radiant heating system
  • Thermostats - About 10 years
  • Geothermal systems - 30 years

Since you have a better idea of how long individual HVAC units can last, let's explore when it may be the right time to upgrade.

New Air Conditioning System is installed with happy homeowner signing paperwork

When to replace your HVAC: most common HVAC issues and signs to look for

No one likes to think about their HVAC system going out. After all, it’s not exactly a cheap fix. But, like everything else in your home, your HVAC system will eventually need to be replaced. The question is, how do you know when it’s time to replace HVAC? Here are the top signs and symptoms to look for that will indicate it’s time for a replacement.

One key symptom to look for is uneven heating or cooling in your home. If certain rooms are always too hot or too cold, it could be a sign that your HVAC system is no longer able to effectively distribute air.

Another sign to watch out for is increased energy bills. If your heating and cooling costs seem to be going up for no reason, it could be because your HVAC system is working harder than it used to just to maintain the same level of comfort.

Remember, the average HVAC system lifespan is 10-25 years. Your system may not last that long if it is constantly being overworked. You can help it through an energy efficiency project, such as by finding and sealing air leaks in your home with a reputable company.

Frequent repairs are a telltale sign. If you’ve been having frequent repairs done, it may be more cost-effective to replace the system.

Some HVAC units even starts to stink like burning, makes strange noises or stops working entirely, letting you know it might be time for an upgrade. You check the breaker and it *seems* fine. You start to panic. This is just one of the many signs that it’s time to replace your HVAC.

Credit: This Is Fine, 2013

Your HVAC system uses fossil fuels. If your home heating or cooling system uses fossil fuels, it's probably time to replace it. Modern HVAC technology uses electricity, which is cheaper, cleaner, and far more efficient.

Your HVAC system has an air conditioner that uses R-22 freon refrigerants. If your air conditioner uses R-22 "Freon" refrigerants, it is time to consider an upgrade. R-22 is being phased out in the U.S. because it is harmful to the environment, and is no longer produced. If additional R-22 coolant is the fix your air conditioning unit needs, you may need to replace your existing unit.

Your HVAC system is aging and needs to be replaced. If your system is in its teens or even 20s, it's time to upgrade. Newer HVAC technology is much more energy efficient, so you'll save money in the long run by replacing your old system.

We want things to last, but your furnace or air conditioner might be using too much energy. Heating and cooling your home can be expensive.

Old HVAC unit on the curb with new HVAC System replacement in boxes

Upgrading HVAC systems can be a big decision - what's the best HVAC system replacement for your needs?

If you're looking to upgrade your HVAC system, the best option is an electric air source heat pump. Heat pumps, also known as ductless mini splits or mini split AC, are an energy-efficient way to heat and cool your home with one appliance. They use as little as 1/3 the energy of traditional HVAC systems.

There are many HVAC replacement options available, but the top recommendations are heat pumps. They are cheaper to operate, better for the environment, and make your home feel amazing.

 Modern house of future with efficient heat pump reduce living cost

Incentives and rebates are available for upgrading HVAC systems

When you upgrade your HVAC system to a more energy-efficient model, most utility companies offer rebates to help offset the cost. This is especially true for heat pumps, which are often highly encouraged by energy-efficiency advocates. If your home qualifies, residential-focused energy efficiency companies can help you get a heat pump installed at no upfront cost, and you can use your utility company's rebates to further offset the cost.

How long does a residential heat pump last?

The average lifespan of a heat pump is 15 years, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. However, with proper heat pump maintenance and sufficient insulation and professional air sealing, you can enjoy all the benefits of a heat pump for many years to come.

You can upgrade your HVAC system for zero upfront cost.

This will help you save money on your energy bills and improve the comfort of your home. Do keep in mind that residential-focused energy efficient companies that exist, like Sealed, do require you qualify for it first, with a FICO score of at least 680. Learn more here.

More Resources Like This

Say hello to Comfort & Goodbye to Energy Waste!

See Savings Calculator