7 Ways to Extend the Life of Your HVAC System

Updated January 5, 2022
A pregnant mother watching her son playing a  game on her smartphone
Photo: Thomas Barwick / DigitalVision / Getty Images

It’s a costly replacement, so hold on to the one you have for as long as possible

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

There’s nothing like walking into a refreshing, air-conditioned home at the end of a sweltering August day. But if you’re not caring for your HVAC system properly, your days of cool comfort may be numbered. The good news, though, is that there are steps you can take today to extend the life of your HVAC system and ensure your house stays cool. If you maintain your HVAC properly, you can generally expect it to last between 15 and 25 years

1. Get an HVAC Load Calculation

To extend the life of your HVAC, you need to start from the beginning. Make sure your system is the appropriate size for your home and your family’s needs. A local HVAC professional can perform a load calculation to determine the right size system for your home. Don’t discount this tip, as an improperly sized system will wear down faster, drive up your energy costs, and likely fail sooner constantly trying to heat or cool your home. 

A system that’s too big will shut on and off constantly because it reaches the temperature too fast, ultimately causing moisture issues and unnecessary wear and tear.

2. Commit to Annual Maintenance

You wouldn’t go years without changing the oil in your car or having it serviced. Just like your car, your HVAC system runs almost 365 days a year, so you’ll need to take care of it if you want it to last!

An annual maintenance inspection could help pinpoint possible problems before they escalate into major repairs. Your HVAC technician will also thoroughly clean the parts of your system that are particularly prone to dirt, debris, and water leaks, such as your condenser coil and your drain line.

3. Change Your Air Filter

Regularly changing your air filters is one of the easiest and most affordable things you can do to extend the life of your HVAC system.

When your air filters are dirty and clogged, your HVAC has to work far harder to circulate air through the system. This means your system may struggle to reach and maintain your set temperature, which will spike the amount of energy your system needs to heat and cool your home. Replacing a dirty filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 10%

In most cases, you should change your air filter a minimum of every 90 days, but if anyone in your household has asthma or allergies, you should aim for once a month at least. The same is true if you have a lot of contaminants in your air, such as pet dander or tobacco smoke.

4. Have Your Ducts Cleaned

Maintaining your HVAC is not just about energy consumption and costs. If your vents are blocked or closed, you’ll be overworking the system so much that you’re setting yourself up for having to repair or replace the whole works!

So, in addition to routinely changing your air filters, you should have your ductwork professionally cleaned yearly. Cleaning ducts is DIY-friendly, but you risk damaging the ductwork if you don’t have the proper equipment or experience.

If you use the wrong tools—such as a brush rather than a professional vacuum or air blower, for example—you may worsen the clog and potentially block the ducts. You can expect to pay around $400 to have your vents and ductwork professionally cleaned, but the added expense may well be worth the peace of mind of knowing you’ve handled this maintenance aspect properly. 

5. Don’t Overwork Your System

A senior woman using home automation touch screen
Photo: Pekic / E+ / Getty Images

No matter how hard your HVAC tries, it won’t successfully cool your home to 68 degrees during a 100-degree heatwave. All you’ll do is overwork the system by setting unreasonable temperature requests. A programmable thermostat can help ensure your system gets some relief. With a programmable thermostat, you can modify your temperature settings to heat and cool your home only during the hours when the family is actually at home.

6. Go Beyond the HVAC System

A boy closing the roller blinds
Photo: Imgorthand / E+ / Getty Images

Extending the life of your HVAC can be as simple as thinking beyond the system itself. 

  1. Use window treatments: Close your blinds during the summer to keep the sunlight out and the air in. Then, open them during the winter to capitalize on the sun’s warmth. 

  2. Leverage ceiling fans: Use your ceiling fan in the summer and winter months to help circulate warm air on cold days and cool air on hot days. This will take some pressure off your HVAC.

  3. Clean around your outdoor system: Rid the area of sticks and debris that could block airflow and decrease efficiency

7. Seal and Insulate Your Home

Extending the life of your HVAC boils down to doing all you can not to overwork your system. A particularly effective way to do that is by making sure your home is properly sealed and insulated. If your home is drafty, your conditioned air will escape and force your HVAC to work harder to bring your house to the desired temperature. 

Give your home a good once-over, looking for and sealing any air leaks. It’s best to start at the attic and work your way down, paying particular attention to windows and exterior doors. 

You’ll also want to make sure that your attic and exterior walls are well-insulated. Poorly-insulated homes are veritable energy vampires that drain your heated and cooled air and punish your HVAC in the process. Rodents and other pests may well tear away your insulation, especially in attics, leaving your home unprotected from temperature extremes. Checking your insulation for any gaps or damage can help keep your home snug and comfy all year long.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.