How Long Should an Air Conditioner Run?

How Long Should an Air Conditioner Run?

The question of life expectancy is multifaceted and can be addressed two different ways: 1. How long should an air conditioner’s typical cycle run/system operating hours? And 2. How long should an air conditioner unit last (in years)/life cycle?

Air conditioning repair services across the board will say it’s difficult to determine the life expectancy of an air conditioner. Several factors such as how often it’s used, weather, maintenance frequency, proximity to corrosive contaminants, if it’s had any retrofits, and unit quality all factor into its lifespan. So, let’s address both questions in tandem! But before we do that, we have to determine what type of AC unit we’re dealing with.

Standard air conditioner types:

Ducted split system – Central split systems are the most common style of AC unit in the US. They operate both inside and outside of the structure being cooled and use fans or evaporator coolers to circulate refrigerated air through a ducted system.
Ductless mini split air conditioning – These systems have tubes that carry refrigerant. For quiet air conditioning, this is a great option. These run nearly silent, are very energy efficient, and allow rooms to be cooled individually.
Packaged central air conditioner – All-in-one systems like this are primarily used in smaller homes and offices with limited space. The evaporator, condenser, and compressor are all-in-one.

What’s the Life Expectancy of a Ducted Split System?

A split system, because it’s partially outdoors can survive anywhere between 10-15 years if used regularly with minimal or low maintenance. They can last up to 20 years, however, if regularly maintained and not overused.

How long do its cycles last?

Air conditioners go through normal on and off cycles to keep the room (or rooms) at a particular temperature. If it’s turning on and off more than once every few minutes, it might have a clogged air filter or low refrigerant. So, to answer the question, a split system should come on every twenty minutes or so. Keep in mind that this figure is very flexible since factors such as insulation and outdoor temperature always factor into the time interval.

Cycles and Lifespan of a Ductless System

All ductless systems generally have a longer life when maintained properly compared to a standard electric HVAC system. A traditional electric heat pump’s average life expectancy is 15 years with proper maintenance. A ductless split system average life expectancy is 20 to 30 years with regular maintenance.

How long should it stay on, and how frequently?

Like split systems, ductless systems should be considered to be functioning normally if they kick on two to three times per hour. Again, it depends on how hard they’re working to keep the room at a steady temperature. On a hotter day, it may come on more frequently, and its cycles may last longer than five minutes.

How Long Do Packaged Central Systems Last?

The same rule applies to all-in-one systems. They generally last between 15-20 years depending on how well it’s maintained.

How long are its on/off cycle durations?

The cycle durations of packaged central systems might vary a bit from their smaller counterparts, but again, it depends on a variety of factors. 2-3 times per hour is pretty standard, with on-cycles lasting about 5-10 minutes.

Want to dive deeper into the ins-and-outs of air conditioners? Read what we found about the best air conditioners on the market!