The Average Life Expectancy Of Air Conditioner Capacitor

You rely on your air conditioner to keep your home cool during the hot summer months. However, if any part of the unit stops working, it can be problematic and frustrating. One AC component that could cause a functionality issue is the capacitor. Most AC capacitors stop working because of electrical problems, which usually require immediate repairs to ensure the functioning of the machine. But before you encounter any problems, what is the life expectancy of an air conditioner capacitor.

An air conditioner capacitor generally has a lifetime rating of 10-20 years. While 20 years sounds like a large number, it can vary depending on how often the unit is used and whether or not it is properly maintained. Physical damage, overheating, age-related wear and tear, and improper voltage or current traveling through the capacitor are some of the factors that can shorten its lifespan.

What is an Air Conditioner Capacitor?

An air conditioner capacitor is also named a run capacitor. The run capacitor transmits energy to the AC motor. An air conditioner capacitor provides your HVAC system with the boost it needs to power on. Also, the air conditioner capacitor offers continuous power for the system to run.

The run capacitor within your air conditioner stores charges throughout an electrostatic field. In a few words, the run capacitor is a brief storage tool for electricity. Moreover, the HVAC system uses the run capacitor to stabilize voltage and start AC motors. That is, in the cooling system.

Since the AC capacitor powers the motors, an air conditioner must operate. The capacitor is one component that makes up your air conditioner. The small but powerful component is a workhorse.

The run capacitor isn’t subject to malfunctions like other air conditioner components. Without a run capacitor that runs well, your air conditioner won’t operate as it should.

The AC capacitor starts many air conditioner motors. Also, the run capacitor builds up electricity storage. Your AC uses storage to supply continuous power. In that supply role, the run capacitor turns to a temporary battery. As a result, the air conditioner maintains a constant power supply that keeps your AC on its toes.

AC Capacitor Types

Start Capacitor

A start capacitor produces electricity that starts the fan motors in air conditioners. Moreover, the start capacitor ensures your unit runs since it engages longer.

Once the air conditioners run, the start capacitor disengages. After the disengagement, the start capacitor waited till the AC needed it again.

I bet you’ve heard of Turbo capacitors or super boost capacitors. Well, technically, they aren’t capacitors. Instead, they jumpstart the apparatus in your car. The capacitors offer a significant boost, and the AC uses them in rare situations.

Such rare cases involve:

  • Compressor won’t start
  • Electrical problems

Run Capacitors

The run capacitors are of two types; single-stage and dual-stage.

Single-stage capacitors start/power a single AC device or motor. At the top, they consist of two terminals. But, the dual-stage capacitors are comprised of three terminals.

How Long should AC Capacitors Last?

A capacitor, a standard AC part, needs replacement in residential air conditioning systems. Although the compressor runs for several years, change it at least once in ten years. If you don’t do a capacitor replacement, you’ll have a bad capacitor. Also, the capacitor leaks oil.

You’ll experience bad capacitors between 10-20 years of service.

Factors that affect ac capacitor lifespan

The Unit Construction

When deciding which unit to go for, consider the manufacturer’s offers.

Bargain-based manufacturers offer inadequate protection. Moreover, it leaves coils vulnerable to weeds, kids, and the sun.

Well-known brands protect the coils through louvered wraps. And the wraps deflect wick moisture and UV rays away from the unit’s coils. Moreover, they offer the unit coils more UV protection through composite base pans.

Quality Components

Another factor that the manufacturers affect is components. The components like the fan, motor, and condenser are crucial.

Manufacturers build the AC components in different ways. Popular brands use components from reputable manufacturers that run longer.


If you don’t install an HVAC unit the right way, the years ahead will be trouble. With many variables in the process, let an HVAC tech install the unit. But remember, the HVAC technician has to have certs and also experience.


Never ignore your air conditioning system. If you don’t maintain it, you‘ll have a system failure or faulty capacitor. In short, the unit will break down and won’t blow cold air.

Always change the unit’s filters and do routine AC maintenance. It’s a wise choice to contact an experienced HVAC tech for the job.

How do you Know you Need a New Capacitor?

1. Ac Unit Not Blowing Cool Air

AC Units that don’t blow cool air have defective parts. If the fan or filter on the AC unit isn’t the problem, check:

  • Electronic control board
  • The thermostat
  • AC capacitor

2. Rising Cooling Bills

You’ll have to know the air conditioner cycles. Moreover, an HVAC capacitor won’t run as usual in a single cycle. And later on, fail in its next cycle. So its performance declines over time. Due to that reason, one would notice an electricity bill shoot.

3. Ac Unit Turns Off on Its Own

The capacitor powers the HVAC unit. And it won’t power down on its own when it has a bad capacitor. The issue means the faulty capacitor won’t provide adequate energy to the unit. It’s because bad capacitors don’t hold sufficient charges.

4. Ac Unit Doesn’t Turn on Immediately

When AC capacitors fail, the HVAC system won’t power on immediately. The capacitor’s failure forces your system to draw more energy to run.

A bad capacitor builds up an adequate charge before it powers on the unit. Inadequate charge slows the AC’s power on speed.

5. Ac Unit Won’t Turn on at All

When your HVAC unit doesn’t turn on at all, contact your HVAC guy. The tech will perform an AC repair if need be. Moreover, the HVAC pro will check:

  • The specific voltage rating
  • Wrong capacitor
  • Incorrect electrical loads
  • Closed circuit failure
  • leaky capacitor
  • Climate and usage pattern
  • Electrical surges
  • Condensing units
  • Undersized capacitor

6. Strange Humming Sound

If your AC produces a strange humming sound, its capacitor is faulty. The sound comes up when the unit struggles to run.

What Causes AC Capacitor to Fail

Exposure to Heat

Heat contributes the highest percentage of elements that damage capacitors. That is, in areas like Phoenix. If you expose an HVAC system to heat for more extended periods, it affects the capacitor.

As a result, your unit will suffer significant damages that render it unusable. Thus, keep the unit and the air circulation clean to boost its lifespan.

Voltage Rating

All manufacturers put a voltage rating on their HVAC capacitors. The voltage rating helps HVAC techs to identify a capacitor that matches an AC.

Unfortunately, some homeowners will forever try to replace their AC capacitors. Something I would never tell you to do. You won’t choose a suitable AC capacitor for your air conditioner if you do so.

Moreover, an undersized capacitor will hurt your AC since it shortens its lifespan. If you want to go ahead with the capacitor replacement, a bigger one works.

If it’s a 370V unit, a capacitor of 400V ensures that it gets adequate power. Also, the proper volts help the AC capacitor reach its desirable lifespan.


Like other things, the AC capacitor has a finite lifespan. Moreover, most manufacturers design the capacitors to run for about 20 years. But, several factors will eat into that lifespan. And in critical situations, wear and tear make the capacitor slow down faster.

When your HVAC system cycles rapidly, it’s an undersized capacitor. Also, the parts that make up the AC capacitor may be problematic. And such components reduce the HVAC’s capacitor lifespan.

Fortunately, you can replace the capacitor parts for a few bucks. Thus, even if the AC capacitor breaks down before the unit, you won’t spend extra dollars.

What Happens When a Capacitor Fails?

When a heat pump or AC capacitor failure happens, temperature settings change. As a result, your home may become cooler or hotter than the temperature on the thermostat.

Moreover, you may notice that the unit’s fan runs but won’t blow cool air from the vents.

If the temperature settings shift, check the AC’s breaker panel if it has tripped. After that, take a walk to the condenser outside your home. From there, check the unit’s condenser to see if it runs.

Also, pay attention to the AC fan blade to see if it spins. If it doesn’t turn, do a capacitor replacement.

How Often Should I Replace my Capacitor?

You can run the same air conditioner for 20 years. But, an average AC life span is about 20 years. After ten years, capacitors fail.

If your air conditioning system has surpassed the 10-year mark, replace its capacitor. It’s wise to replace the unit’s capacitors to avoid compressor failure. Also, bad capacitors frequently cause your HVAC unit not to blow cold air.

To avoid such AC problems, routinely schedule preventative maintenance. If you do so, you will prevent issues that come with outages. Note that most power outages occur when it’s hot or cool.

Why Changing your Capacitor is a Good Idea

The capacitors in an air conditioning unit are tiny but play a crucial role. And they’re prone to failure.

Heat exposure – exposing the AC capacitor to the sun’s heat will toll the capacitor. So, shade the air conditioning unit in the best way possible. When you do so, the AC spends fewer hours near the sun. Hence it boosts the capacitor’s lifespan.

Age – always, manufacturers design the AC capacitors to last between 10-20 years. But, different factors affect the AC capacitor’s lifespan. The factors are;

  • Exposure to heat
  • Undersized capacitor
  • Wrong parts
  • However, an AC capacitor costs a few bucks to replace.

Voltage rating – in most cases, homeowners replace capacitors when faulty. Unfortunately, sometimes the homeowners choose the wrong capacitor for their HVAC unit. It’s a quick fix, but not in reality.

Let an HVAC tech examine the capacitor when a capacitor issue comes up. Each air conditioner calls for a particular capacitor of a specific voltage rating.

If both the AC and capacitor have different ratings, the lifespan decreases. Moreover, a faulty capacitor can cause some AC parts to break down.

How Much Does a New Capacitor Cost?

The price of a heat pump or AC capacitor (part only) ranges between $10-$60. But the AC capacitor price depends on the specifications. The price I’ve mentioned caters to the capacitor part only.

If you include extra features or labor costs, the price will shift. The additional charges come when the HVAC tech or repair guy needs to install the parts.

Why does it Cost so Much to Replace AC Capacitors?


The labor cost is the central part of the capacitor replacement tag. And in general, the home installation and repair tag. Most times, homeowners spend between $30-$50 for the parts. Also, they spend $100-$200 in total when we add labor charges.

Thus, $70-$150 is the price range for the supplies and labor. It’ll take you around 30-60 minutes to install an HVAC capacitor

Shelf Life

The HVAC specialists say that an HVAC capacitor can give a homeowner 10-20 service years. But, that’s a lengthy lifespan for a modern HVAC capacitor. As I mentioned earlier, several factors rendered the capacitor ineffective before that time.

But, the capacitor’s 10-20 year lifespan depends on the usage limit. For example, a homeowner can run most AC capacitors 49,999 times within their lifetime. Thus, the capacitor’s lifespan has nothing to do with years and usage.

Life Expectancy of Air conditioner Capacitor FAQs

How Often should you Replace AC Capacitor?

The capacitor is a standard AC part you need to replace. Typically, the HVAC capacitors provide several service years. But you’ll have to replace the AC part at least once in a 10-year interval. Moreover, your HVAC unit may have more than one capacitor.

How Often do AC Capacitors Go Bad?

Like most things in life, HVAC capacitors have lifespans too. In general, The capacitors go bad after ten years. But some run without problems and can last for about 20 years. I mean, 20 years is a fair lifespan. And that’s why most HVAC service providers examine the capacitor last.

How do you Know if your AC Capacitor is Bad?

Bad Capacitor Symptoms 

  • A smoke/burning smell from the external AC components
  • The unit creates a humming sound
  • The unit takes time to run a cooling cycle when you turn it on
  • The AC system turns off at random.

Why do Air Conditioner Capacitors Go Bad?

Reasons for HVAC Capacitor Problems

  • Debris hit
  • Improper voltage
  • The current that passes through the AC’s capacitor
  • Overheating of your HVAC unit
  • Age-related issues
  • Wear and tear

What Happens When AC Capacitor Fails?

The first sign when an HVAC capacitor fails is a lack of cold air.  Also, the HVAC unit takes longer to run after you power it on. And the unit’s compressor creates a humming sound. Moreover, the HVAC capacitor may produce an audible click noise.


Well, it’s transparent that the lifespan of an HVAC capacitor is between 10-20 years. But that depends on the capacitor’s usage and other factors. One of them is a specific voltage rating. So it’s painful for an HVAC unit owner to have capacitor issues before ten years.

But this article has your back. That is if you’ve read to this point.

Since you know your capacitor’s lifespan, should manufacturers do better?