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How to determine the age of your HVAC system

Knowing the age of your equipment can help prevent inconvenient and expensive failures

Vicky Volvovski
June 4, 2024

If you’re like most homeowners, you don’t think about your heating or cooling equipment until something goes wrong. At that point, you’re in an emergency situation and might need expensive maintenance or a replacement immediately.

If you know the age of your equipment and are aware of performance issues, you can be more proactive. This is especially helpful when you want to switch from an old, fossil fuel powered technology to a clean, efficient heat pump.

Check for performance issues

If your equipment is showing any of these signs, it’s a good indicator that it’s time for a replacement:

  • It needs frequent repairs
  • Cost to run your equipment keeps going up
  • You’ve got indoor air quality problems

If your equipment is performing well, that’s great! Of course, the equipment won’t last forever, so being aware of when it is expected to reach the end of its life can help you be proactive for the future.

Average lifespan of equipment

How long a piece of equipment lasts depends a lot on how well maintained it is and how you use it. In general, here's how long you can expect various types of equipment to last:

Equipment Expected lifespan
Furnace 15-20 years
Boiler 20-30 years
Baseboard heaters 15-20 years
Central ACs 15-20 years

If your equipment is past its “expected” lifespan but you’re not seeing any performance issues, you can, of course, continue as normal. 

However, replacing appliances in an emergency situation (like when your furnace goes out in the middle of winter) is typically more expensive than being proactive. We recommend making a plan for older appliances – even if you’re not ready to replace them today.

Determining age of equipment

If you’re not sure the age of your equipment, you can try the following methods.

Manufacturer’s label

The installation date is often printed on the manufacturer’s label. These are usually affixed to the front or top of the equipment.

Serial number

Serial numbers can be decoded to get the manufacturing date.

The number is usually printed somewhere on the appliance. If you don’t see one printed on the outside of the appliance, turn off the power before digging any deeper to stay safe! Check for serial numbers on the fan and its blades as well as on the interior of any doors to the appliance.

To decode the serial number, find your brand using the search in the upper right and decode it based on the pattern:

Service tags

Check to see if there are any tags on the appliance from past maintenance. This may list a date that the equipment was installed, or at least give you a minimum age.

Look for other clues

If all else fails, you might need to piece together the clues available to you to get a rough estimate. Consider the following:

  • The age of your home and if it looks like original equipment
  • How long you've lived in the home and whether or not it was replaced during that time
  • How well the equipment is working – if you've got increased energy use, decreased air quality, or frequent maintenance issues, it is likely past it's expected lifespan

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