January 11th, 2021

Cosmo here! Today I heard The Boss tell a customer, “Your system has a lifespan of about 15 years.” Why do some appliances last longer than others?
It’s a dilemma that every homeowner will face at one time or another. When something goes wrong with one of your home’s HVAC components, how do you decide whether to repair or replace it? One of the key factors in this decision is how long the equipment was designed to last and whether you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of it. Every system has an expected lifespan, and once it gets past this age, repairing it is no longer the most sensible option. More issues are likely to emerge and eventually, repairs will cost more than a replacement. You can read various studies to get an idea of how long your equipment will last. Sometimes though, the equipment is unpredictable. Appliances never read these studies! 
Although some systems will exceed or fail to reach their average lifespan, knowing when it makes sense to replace each system and appliance is one of the best ways to protect the investments you’ve made in your home.  
To help you, we’ve prepared this guide:
Infographic showing the average lifespans of various types of HVAC equipment
These numbers are based on research from Consumer Reports and NAHB/BOA Study of Life Expectancy of Home ComponentsAlthough these studies are several years old, they still provide a reliable estimate for the systems they discuss. Here are some details on the numbers you see in the infographic:

Average Lifespan of Tank-Type Water Heaters

These water heaters, whether gas or electric, usually last close to 10 years before replacement is needed.

Central AC System Average Lifespan

With proper maintenance, you can expect your central air system to last for anywhere from 10-15 years.

Life Expectancy of a Furnace

There are a few different types of furnaces, but there is no significant difference in the average life expectancy of oil, gas, and electric furnaces. They can all last for about 15 years to as long as 20. Although furnaces generally last longer than AC systems, it’s better to replace both at the same time to ensure a matched system and maximum performance and efficiency.

Average Tankless Water Heater Lifespan

Tankless water heaters can last over 20 years. That’s double the lifespan of their tank-type counterparts! To give your water heater the best chance of a long life, proper maintenance is an important factor, as are other variables such as water quality and frequency of usage. 

Average Thermostat Lifespan

The 35-year lifespan listed by both Consumer Reports and the NAHB/BOA study is a best-case scenario. Thermostats do not experience the same kind of wear and tear that other HVAC components do, so in theory, these devices can work for longer than other components. However, many homeowners choose to replace their thermostat before it reaches the end of its useful lifespan because the technology becomes obsolete. For example, even if there is nothing technically wrong with your 20-year-old non-programmable thermostat, you may want to invest in a smart thermostat for convenience and energy savings. 

To Repair or to Replace, That is the Question!

Whether a home system reaches its expected lifespan can depend on the quality of the installation, as well as the care it receives throughout its life. Some well-maintained equipment will last longer, and poorly maintained or cheap “builder’s grade” equipment can fail prematurely. Our HVAC maintenance plans, available in Mercer County, NJ and the rest of our service area, can be a big help in ensuring your system’s functionality. One way to figure out whether replacement is necessary is with a simple formula. Take the age of the system and multiply it by the cost of repair. If this gives you a number that exceeds $4,000, it may be time for a replacement. 
If you are facing a large repair bill, it is wise to consider the average lifespan of your HVAC system when deciding whether to repair or replace it. Deciding to replace a system too early or waiting too long can both be expensive mistakes. Other variables, such as the overall condition of the equipment, should also factor into your decision.
If a company has told you that your equipment is unrepairable or had a repair estimate that seems too high, we offer Free HVAC Second Opinions in Princeton, NJ and throughout our service area. Call us at 609-448-1273 or fill out this online form to learn more.
Now I know how many years these appliances and systems usually last. One thing I’m still wondering about…Are they measured in dog years or people years? Woof!

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