Do Air Conditioners Wear Out? (High vs Low Maintenance)

Air conditioners wear out over time. However, you can do something about it. In this article, you’re going to learn how long air conditioners last, and how you can extend the lifespan of your air conditioner!

Quick answer: Yes, air conditioners wear out. You can expect an air conditioner to last 20+ years if you maintain it once a year. If you skipped your maintenance, you can revive your air conditioner by changing air filters, cleaning the evaporator coil, and fully dusting the internals.

Do air conditioners wear out?

Yes, air conditioners wear out with time. The main reason is internal friction. Air conditioners have moving parts inside, such as a fan or a compressor. These wear out with time. 

Just like the moving parts in a car.

If you don’t maintain your air conditioner, you will have to replace these parts.

However, this can be prevented!

Another reason for air conditioners wearing out is the exposure to outside influences such as weather. Especially when there’s lots of rain where you live, the rain can enter your air conditioner and cause parts to oxidize and wear out.

Also, wind can carry dirt into the outdoor part of your air conditioner. The dirt travels deeper and deeper into your air conditioner over time, until it reaches the moving elements and increases the wear-down rate.

Air conditioners wear out with running time

Air conditioners wear out the more you use them. Here’s a table with estimates how long well-maintained ACs last for different average daily running durations:

Average daily AC running durationHow long will an air conditioner last?
2h>25 years
4h>15 years
8h>10 years
24h>5 years

An average AC has a lifespan of 18,250 hours. This number is derived from the assumption that an AC used for 2h a day will last for 25 years.

Note that the 2h a day is an average value. This includes higher usage during summer and no or reduced usage during wintertime.

Does air conditioner refrigerant wear out?

Theoretically, air conditioner refrigerant lasts forever, since the air conditioner is a fully sealed system and the refrigerant is not used up or burned.

Air conditioner refrigerant can only wear out if the air conditioner’s internal ducts leak. This only happens if the air conditioner is damaged by impact or if weather wears down the ducts over time.

How long do air conditioners last?

Modern air conditioners last at least 20 years if properly cared for. Older models last anywhere from 15 to 30 years. Actually, the longevity of an air conditioner depends more on how well you maintain it rather than the brand of the air conditioner.

Maintenance FrequencyHow long will an air conditioner last?
twice a year>25 years
yearly>20 years
every second year>10 years
every third year>5 years

You see that the “law of diminishing returns” applies here. Yearly maintenance is much better than maintenance every second year. However, increasing maintenance frequency any further (eg. twice a year) won’t bring you a proportional increase. 

The sweet spot for air conditioner maintenance is once a year.

Build quality is, of course, also a factor.

A well-maintained air conditioner will last 30+ years. However, in 30 years, there will probably be new technology you can replace your old AC with.

How to maintain an air conditioner for increased lifespan?

You can increase an air conditioner’s lifespan by maintaining it once a year. You will have to replace the air filters and clean the evaporator coil each year.

For air filter replacement, just get a regular air filter you find online. If you want the air to be filtered very well, then get a HEPA air filter. These can even filter smoke.

For the evaporator coil cleaning, I recommend getting this evaporator coil cleaning foam (click here to view it on amazon) and this evaporator coil cleaning brush kit (click here to view it on amazon).

You can do the air filter replacement and the evaporator coil cleaning in one go.

First, open your air conditioner.

Then, dust it using a dry brush. Using a dry brush instead of a wet one is important since your air conditioner is full of dust and bacteria. When you wet dust and bacteria, your air conditioner will start smelling.

And you won’t be able to get rid of that smell easily.

After dry-brushing your air conditioner, replace the air filter(s).

And then, clean the evaporator coil using the evaporator coil cleaning kit. If you don’t want to use the recommended AC cleaning brush, you can also use a toothbrush (or any other kind of brush).

How to revive an air conditioner

If your air conditioner gets to a point where it does not cool properly or it does not even turn on, then you can take the following steps to revive your old air conditioner.

What to do if your air conditioner does not turn on?

If your air conditioner does not turn on, then:

  1. Check for a blown fuse or a tripped circuit breaker.
  2. Check if the power supply of your air conditioner is working. If possible, run your AC from another wall outlet (not possible with all AC models).
  3. A fuse or circuit breaker inside the AC could be blown or tripped.

These are relatively easy to check. A blown fuse can be changed easily. And a tripped circuit breaker can simply be switched on again.

What to do to improve the cooling of an old air conditioner?

To improve the cooling of your old air conditioner, clean the air filters and the evaporator coil. Also, ensure that the built-in fans are free of dust. Remove any excess dust from your AC.

After that, your air conditioner should run properly again!

If it doesn’t, you can let a professional check the AC for regassing and potential refrigerant leaks.

If you have a portable AC or a window AC, ensure that the window setup is properly sealed. For portable ACs, insulate the hose using an insulation wrap.


How long an air conditioner lasts and how quickly it wears out depends entirely on how well you maintain it.

A regular AC will last you for well over 20 years if your clean its internals and change the air filters once a year.

Maintaining an air conditioner more frequently is not worth it since it increases the lifespan only slightly.