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“How Long Does an Air Conditioner Unit Last in Phoenix, AZ?”

2016 Sep 14
Posted in: Air Conditioning

According to Energy.gov, a central air conditioner usually lives for about 15 to 20 years. 
But since you live in Arizona, where the sun mercilessly beats down on the outside unit, you may be wondering how long your air conditioner will last.

From our experience, we’d say an air conditioner in Arizona will probably last about 10 to 14+ years

This lifespan varies based on these factors:

  • Your system’s type (straight cool vs. heat pump) 
  • Proper system sizing
  • System maintenance

We’ll show you how those 3 issues that can affect the lifespan, and what you can do to extend the life of your air conditioner.

3 factors that determine an AC’s lifespan

1) Your system type

The lifespan of your air conditioning system depends on the system’s type: 

  • Straight cool: 14+ years
  • Heat pump: 10 to 14 years

A heat pump is an air conditioner that can both cool and heat your home. The big issue for these types of air conditioners is that the lifespan is shorter because it’s running year-round. Whereas a straight-cool air conditioner lasts several years longer because it gets to rest during the cooler months (what few we have!) and let the furnace take over. 

2) Proper system sizing

All air conditioners come in a particular “size,” which is measured in tons. Size measures the air conditioner’s cooling ability (how well it can remove heat from your home). The larger the system, the more quickly it can remove heat. 

Now, here’s the important part: Improper sizing will reduce an air conditioner’s lifespan. Essentially, air conditioners are like shoes: If you have the wrong size, you’re going to have painful problems.

For example, here are 2 common AC sizing issues:

  • Oversized system: In this case, the air conditioner is too large and will cool your home too quickly. That may not sound like a bad thing, but it is! Cooling your home too quickly causes the unit to turn on and off too often, which increases wear and tear and therefore decreases the system’s lifespan. 
  • Undersized system: In this case, the air conditioner is too small and struggles to cool your home on hot days, forcing it to run constantly. This constant running reduces your system’s lifespan.

Do this: If you’re looking to get a new air conditioner soon, ensure that you hire a professional Phoenix AC technician to find the size or AC you need by using a load calculation

Related article: What Size Central Air Conditioner Do I Need?

3) System maintenance

Air conditioners are like cars: If you don’t maintain them properly, they’re more likely to break down, resulting in decreased lifespan.

So, how can you maintain your air conditioner? Two ways:

1) DIY maintenance: Change the air filter

A dirty air filter is the #1 cause of AC breakdowns. Which is unfortunate because changing the filter is so easy.

A dirty filter causes big problems because it restricts airflow to the AC. This restriction can cause your AC to:

Do this: Check your filter once a month and change it if it looks like the one on the right:


2) Professional maintenance: AC tune-up 

To prevent breakdowns and unwanted costs, air conditioners need a professional tune-up once a year, according to ENERGY STAR.

What’s so important about professional maintenance?  

Well, besides keeping your warranty valid, tune-ups take care of important tasks like cleaning the outside unit. If that outside unit gets too dirty, the AC will struggle to cool your home, causing it to run constantly

Essentially, a dirty outside unit causes the same problems as undersizing the air conditioner.


If your AC’s outdoor unit looks like this, it needs a tune-up!

Related articles:

Do this: If your AC has not had professional maintenance in over a year, contact your local Phoenix HVAC contractor to schedule an AC tune-up.