Life Expectancy of Commercial HVAC Equipment

When you oversee the commercial heating and cooling system for a building or facility, the comfort and health of many people depend on the tasks you perform and the equipment you help maintain. On the days that things run smoothly, you may hear a few comments of gratitude. However, when the rooftop air conditioner breaks on the hottest day of summer, your popularity takes a hit. If the heat pumps fail during winter, your office will be the first call building occupants will make.

While you may take the bullet, aging equipment is likely to be the one to blame for things breaking down. It is generally understood that mechanical equipment has a life expectancy, and no one should expect things to last forever. A commercial HVAC system is no different. 

Many factors will determine if the equipment lasts for 15 years or 20 or less. Understanding how long a commercial HVAC unit should last is imperative to ensuring that things work correctly and run smoothly. It is possible to get many years of a properly functioning system when working with a trusted company like TRI-AIR Systems. The licensed professionals at TRI-AIR Systems provide the needed support with comprehensive heating and air conditioning maintenance services. Our team stands ready to help maintain your HVAC system for a lifetime of steady, good performance.

What Factors Affect the Longevity of a Commercial HVAC System?

Manufacturers continually produce quality equipment built to withstand years of use. They improve technology and utilize quality materials. The goal is to send a heating and cooling system out to the market to provide optimal user comfort.

Once the equipment is installed for the end-user, it is out of the manufacturer’s hands to ensure that proper steps are taken to extend the system’s life. Many factors contribute to the years you can use it, including the size, installation quality, use, and maintenance.

Size of Unit

The size of the equipment does affect how it runs and how long it lasts. It is vital to have the correct size of the HVAC unit for the square footage being covered. Besides having high energy bills all year long, your facility may experience additional problems, including:

  • An undersized system will run non-stop. 
  • An oversized system will run in short bursts constantly throughout the day.
  • Inconsistent temperatures throughout the facility and office space.
  • Insufficient moisture removal may lead to mold growth.

An incorrectly sized system will reach an early demise in its lifespan. Parts will wear out, and air quality may decrease. In addition to this, you may find your occupants are uncomfortable and may file complaints. The right size keeps everyone happy and helps ensure the unit will withstand the test of time to reach its life expectancy.

Quality of Installation

Another factor in the life expectancy of a commercial heating and cooling system is the quality of the installation. These units require precise installation. Any errors will create flaws down the line, leading to increased wear and tear of the components. It will also result in low efficiency levels. A poor running system affects energy bills and air quality.

It is imperative that your HVAC units are installed to the manufacturer’s specifications by qualified, licensed technicians. These professionals have the needed training to ensure that units, wiring, and ductwork are correctly sized and installed precisely the way they should be. With quality installation, your building occupants can enjoy a long lifespan of comfort with a high-performance HVAC system. If not, then you can expect your system to wear out long before it should.

Maintenance Schedule for Commercial HVAC Systems

Routine maintenance is one key factor in getting the longest life out of a commercial heating and cooling system. These units work hard through many different elements to keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Even the best-built system on the market will not last its maximum life expectancy if maintenance is not conducted on schedule.

Routine maintenance includes many different actions, such as:

  • Filters are checked and replaced on schedule, usually about every two months
  • Air ducts and other components cleaned
  • Worn part replaced 
  • A regular tune-up from a professional

Failure to conduct scheduled maintenance can result in:

  • he shortened the life expectancy of the system
  • Damaged components because of neglected wear and tear
  • Reduced energy efficiency
  • Premature parts failure caused by unnecessary stress on equipment

Ideally, your facilities team must conduct maintenance regularly and schedule a professional company to come in a couple of times each year. If not, now is the time to get back on track, even if it means planning for a system replacement in the near future.

Usage and Operating Conditions

Another factor affecting the longevity of a heating and cooling system is how it is used. For example, when a unit is used 24 hours a day for 365 days a year, more wear and tear will occur, resulting in more needed commercial HVAC repair work. A similar system used conservatively or one that is controlled by an automatic system over the same amount of time can last longer.

Outside stressors make a difference as well. The climate and location of the building impact how your system reacts during the different seasons. Direct sunlight heats up outdoor components, adding stress when in operation. Imagine how an air conditioning unit works hard during summer months to cool down the inside of a building while being heated up by the sun’s rays. Frigid winter temperatures place a burden on heating systems, too. Another outside stressor is the climate in which the system is set. If in an arid region, dust is a constant threat. More humid areas increase the need for dehumidification.

Many conditions influence the usage of the units, including building size, occupancy, business operations, and production activities. Having the right size of equipment installed correctly with regular maintenance will aid in longer equipment life and much more enjoyment for occupants.

Average Lifespan of HVAC Equipment

Knowing that many things can contribute to life expectancy empowers you as a building maintenance manager to make the best decisions for your company. You can take steps to make your equipment last longer. Depending on all the previously mentioned factors, here is what you can expect:

  • Roof Top Air Conditioners
    • Single-zone: 15 years
    • Multi-zone: 15 years
  • Commercial Boilers, hot water (steam)
    • Steel water-tube: 24 years
    • Steel fire-tube: 25 years
    • Cast iron: 35 years
    • Electric: 15 years
  • Packaged Chillers
    • Reciprocating: 20 years
    • Centrifugal: 23 years
    • Absorption: 23 years
  • Air Cooled Condensers: 20 years
  • Heat Pumps
    • Commercial air-to-air: 15 years
    • Commercial water-to-air: 19 years
  • Fans
    • Centrifugal: 25 years
    • Axial: 20 years
    • Propeller: 15 years
    • Ventilating roof-mounted: 20 years

This equipment is built to work hard and last for many years. When proper steps are taken, it is possible to reach these expectations. It does take dedication and a proactive approach to maintenance and replacing worn pieces when it is time.

When to Start Searching for HVAC Replacement Options

Since nothing lasts forever, it is critical to have a plan to replace parts and units before they break down. When you avoid waiting until the last minute to replace equipment, you can ensure you get the best system for your building and have it installed properly. No one wants to rush through an installation in the middle of a brutal winter when it could have been avoided by preplanning.

Here are some suggestions to aid you in developing an HVAC system replacement plan:

  • Consider the age of the existing equipment. Is it nearing the average life expectancy of this type of HVAC unit?
  • Look at your repair bills. Do things malfunction frequently, requiring repairs?
  • Take a visual inventory of items. Are there visible signs of wear and tear? Is there damage, rust, or corrosion?
  • Investigate the technology used. Is it antiquated and inefficient? For example, maybe it still uses R-22 refrigerant or single-speed motors.
  • Pay attention to occupant feedback. Are there complaints of being too hot or too cold? Is the system unable to keep up with the demands of the building?
  • Look at the energy bills. Has there been an unexpected increase in energy expenses?


As you evaluate the answers to these questions, you will get a better picture of how soon your system may need to be replaced. By preparing now, you can avoid too much interruption to the occupants’ day and mitigate costs associated with emergency commercial heating and air conditioning repairs.

The Importance of Having a Proactive Maintenance Contract

Remaining in a reactive state causes much frustration. Instead, take the needed steps to plan for replacement when your equipment has met its life expectancy. Whether you replace your HVAC system now or keep your existing one for a few more years, proactive maintenance is critical to keeping things running smoothly.

It is easy to neglect this step when a system is newly installed. “If it’s new, why mess with it and call for maintenance?” This is not a suitable long-term way of thinking. Instead of looking at routine maintenance as an unnecessary expense, look at it as an investment in the longevity of everyone’s comfort.

Here are some of the advantages of ensuring you have a proactive maintenance contract for your facility:


  • Extend the Life Expectancy of Your Equipment: Get the most from your system with regular maintenance that includes keeping motors and bearings lubricated, coils cleaned, filters changed, and components repaired.
  • Minimize the Need for Repairs: Routine visits from an HVAC professional mean minor issues do not escalate into costly problems later. Poor maintenance leads to expensive repairs that interrupt your occupants’ and employees’ days.
  • Keep Energy Costs Lower: An improperly maintained system will run inefficiently and cause strain on components while increasing energy costs. It not only affects the company’s bottom line but is damaging to the environment.

Choose an Experienced HVAC Company Dedicated to Your Comfort

Ensuring you get the most life from your heating and cooling equipment is easy when you work with the trusted team at Tri-Air Systems. We believe in providing the highest quality service while developing a long-standing relationship with you. Look to us for assistance with routine maintenance through our Proactive Maintenance Agreement, as well as rapid response times for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Depend on our more than 40 years of experience servicing the Markham and Greater Toronto area for your commercial heating and cooling needs. We provide you with trusted service throughout all aspects of your HVAC needs. We are dedicated to your satisfaction with excellent response times and knowledgeable, highly-trained technicians. Experience superior customer service, starting with the first phone call and continuing through our visit when you contact us today.

For expert advice on the best heating and cooling system for your building, call 905-470-2424. You can also contact us online to schedule a consultation, order a new HVAC system, or discuss a commercial HVAC maintenance plan.

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