If you’re considering installing a mini split versus central air or a full HVAC system, then life expectancy is a major concern. No one wants the expense of early replacement, no matter what system you choose.
Fortunately, mini split systems have a life expectancy comparable to an HVAC unit. But the more you know upfront, the easier your decision will be when you’re ready to purchase.
The average life expectancy for a ductless air conditioner and heating unit is about 20 years. However, with a good maintenance plan, many of these systems will last up to 30 years.
That’s quite a long time—and a little bit longer than the average lifespan for an HVAC system. Advancements in technology means that modern systems will often last longer. It also means that you may want to upgrade sooner as new models with even higher efficiency rates come out.
What is the Average Lifespan of an HVAC System?
This research shows the average HVAC system will last between 15 and 25 years, good news for homeowners and pros alike. Keep in mind that this is an estimate for the entire HVAC system. Individual components may break down much sooner than that. For example, air conditioning units last between 12 and 17 years. Heat pumps average about 16 years, and furnaces last between 15 and 20 years.
Maintenance will extend the longevity of an HVAC system. But by the 10-year mark, you should be prepared to start repairing or replacing major components as they fail. That can include not just the air conditioning unit and the furnace but also sections of ductwork, whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers, and other pieces of equipment. This process can prove more difficult—and more expensive—than replacing a mini split unit.
When Should I Replace My Mini Split System?
There are really only two reasons why you’d want to replace a mini split system: For upgrades or when they need repair.
In terms of upgrades, you can do it for efficiency or for aesthetics. After 10 to 15 years, you may find newer models that are energy efficient enough to offset the cost of replacing existing systems.
Where aesthetics are concerned, keep in mind that mini split systems can stand out more than vents. Sometimes, homeowners upgrade to newer mini split systems with lower profiles or less obvious wall units.
Beyond that, when a mini split system breaks down, it’s usually more economical to repair it versus replacing the unit.
Are Mini Splits High Maintenance?
No. In fact, the typical mini split maintenance schedule is often far easier to keep up with than a traditional central air conditioner and heater system.
You don’t have to worry about all of the maintenance associated with ductwork. No cleaning ducts, vents, and grates. You also won’t have to inspect ductwork joints to make sure they’re sealed routinely.
In some homes, ductwork runs through unconditioned areas like crawlspaces. In these areas, you need to inspect insulation around that ductwork regularly. You don’t want cold air chilling the heated air running through the ducts—or vice versa. Since mini split systems are ductless, this is another issue you won’t have to worry about.
That said, mini split systems aren’t completely maintenance-free. Here’s a short mini split maintenance checklist that will help you keep units in good working order. Be sure to do the following every four to six weeks:
- Clean or replace the indoor unit air filter.
- Periodically wipe down or vacuum the indoor unit to prevent dust from accumulating.
- Turn off the power and use a vacuum or cloth to clean the interior of the indoor unit.
- Inspect the outdoor unit and remove any debris that has accumulated around it.
- Clean dirt and debris from the outdoor coil. You can do this in warmer months with a garden hose and gentle water pressure. Just make sure the unit dries before turning it on again.
- Trim any shrubs that may have grown up around the outdoor unit.
As with central HVAC systems, you can also call a technician to do a more thorough cleaning and checkup. They’ll be able to clean fans, check electrical connections, and so on.
Overall, between long life spans and easy maintenance, mini split systems can be a great option for many homeowners. You just have to choose the best one for your needs, and we’re here to help with that.