The middle of winter is certainly not the best time to discover that you have a worn-out furnace. Certain factors may precipitate the immediate need for a replacement, while others are less urgent and may afford you some time to research and shop for the best deals. Here are some conditions to consider to help you decide whether repair or replacement is your best course of action for keeping your home safe and comfortable.
Your furnace is emitting carbon dioxide.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can cause death when inhaled over a long period. It is known as the silent killer because it is often undetected. A cracked combustion chamber allows your furnace to leak carbon monoxide into your home and should be replaced immediately. These signs could indicate that your furnace is emitting carbon monoxide and should be checked right away:
- The furnace burner flame is yellow instead of blue
- Excess moisture forms on windows, walls and other surfaces
- Rust appears on pipes
- Streaks of soot are visible around the furnace
- There is no upward draft in the chimney
- People in the home experience feelings of nausea, disorientation, headaches and other flu-like symptoms
The cost of repair is more than half the cost of replacement; repairs are more serious and more frequent.
If the repair would cost less than half the cost of a new furnace, it is probably more cost-effective to repair it than replace it. However, the age of the furnace is an important factor as well. If your furnace has reached more than three-quarters of its life expectancy and the repair is one-third or more of the cost of a replacement, it is better to replace it. Experiencing more frequent breakdowns and subsequent repairs is another point in favor of replacement. Keep in mind that a new furnace is going to be more efficient and reliable than your current system and will be less expensive to operate over its lifetime.
You are planning to sell your home soon.
Homebuyers want to know that their new home will provide comfort and safety. A new furnace will not likely increase your home’s value, but it can be an important selling point as it is a costly item that addresses those concerns. A furnace that is found to be at the end of its life expectancy during an inspection will probably need to be replaced. Without that, potential buyers may pass on the house or ask for a reduced price.
Furnace is more than 15 years old.
Most furnaces have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. If it is still working well, replacing it isn’t urgent, but keep in mind that technology is constantly improving. A new furnace could be more affordable than you think once you factor in greater efficiency (lower energy bills) and possible rebates. Rather than waiting for your furnace to fail, begin the process of investigating a new system, which can be installed at your convenience and preserve the comfort of your home.
Heating bills are rising.
Heating costs fluctuate from season to season due to a variety of factors. If, however, you notice that your bills are steadily increasing, it could be time to invest in a new, more efficient system.
Furnace is less effective.
If your furnace is not heating your home as well from year to year, you may need maintenance or you may be ready for a replacement. Ineffective furnaces run nonstop or cycle frequently in order to maintain the proper temperature and comfort level, which uses more energy than necessary. An ineffective furnace can also cause hot or cold spots in your home.
Furnace makes strange noises.
All furnaces make some noise when they turn on, but sounds that are becoming louder or are unusual, such as rattling, popping, screeching or humming, should be checked out by your HVAC technician. Some noises are more serious than others. Pay attention to the type of sound and where it is coming from to help the technician diagnose the cause.
Furnace warranty has expired.
If your furnace is out of warranty, frequent or serious repairs can add up quickly.
If you are experiencing more than three of these conditions, replacing your furnace rather than continuing to repair it makes sense. Replacing an old furnace with a new furnace that has a higher AFUE (today’s furnaces are as high as 98.5%) can greatly offset the cost of a new system with lower energy bills and no or minimal repairs.