When the temperature drops, you need a reliable furnace in the home. A failing furnace causes more than a lack of comfort and heat. Pipes may burst when furnaces fail, and temperatures drop below freezing.
It is important to be aware of some warning signs from your oil or natural gas furnace that indicate it may need replacing. It is especially important not to wait until it’s too late. A cold winter night with a failing or faltering furnace is not the time to assess your heating system. It pays to be prepared and information is the key to making a wise decision.
What do you do with that old furnace, though? Replacing and repairing are two options. Making the right choice is critical.
When Repair Is Best
In most cases, furnace troubles can be easily pinpointed and repaired. If your furnace is less than 10 years old, it stands a very good chance that any issues it exhibits can be solved through repair. Also, if your furnace is still heating your home efficiently, then it is still likely and more affordable to repair it. Usually, as long as you are not seeing a steady increase in your heating bills with regular usage and your home is not having issues with uneven heating, your furnace is functioning efficiently.
Remember that even if you are experiencing a decrease in heating efficiency, there are other routes you can explore before considering replacing your furnace. Talk to your HVAC service advisor about upgrading your thermostat or checking the integrity of your home’s ductwork to see if he thinks these HVAC products could improve the efficiency of your furnace.
When deciding whether to repair or replace your furnace, look at the price of repairs vs a new system. As long as the repairs you need are less than one-third of the expense of a new heating system and your furnace is in the first half of its expected lifetime, repair is likely your best decision.
When Replacement Is Best
At times, repair is not your best option to restore your furnace to optimal function. The estimated lifetime of most furnaces is 15-20 years. After this time, the heating system will begin to fail more and more often. Accordingly, if your furnace is approaching or past 15 years old, it is time to discuss replacement.
In addition, if you require frequent repairs, this could also be a sign that it’s time to consider replacement. Although repairs may seem like a basic fix, if they are not keeping your furnace functioning for years at a time, these frequent smaller charges ultimately cost you more money.
There are many things that may determine whether replacement is ideal for you including the quality of your original furnace installation and the capacity of your furnace. Installation means everything in terms of furnace effectiveness. In addition, your furnace may be struggling if it is not sized properly for your home size or heating needs. If your furnace is not sized or installed properly, you might want to buy the correct unit versus trying to get the wrong unit to perform beyond its capacity.
Here are some general things to gauge just how much life left you have in your furnace:
- Your Furnace is 16-20 Years Old
A furnace does not have a specific “expiration date.” The average life expectancy of furnaces in homes today is between 16 and 20 years. If your furnace is close to this age or older, replacement becomes necessary. Shopping for a replacement furnace in an emergency does not allow time for you to make your best decision.
- Rising Energy Bills
Furnaces often lose their efficiency as they age, especially if they have not been properly maintained. As a result, your furnace may need to run longer to provide the same amount of heat, causing your energy bills to go up. Rather than paying higher energy bills, use that money to buy a much more energy-efficient and energy saving furnace. Start to compare the cost of your recent heating bills with heating bills from the previous years. If there is a significant difference, then it’s time to replace your furnace.
- Multiple Repairs in the Last 2 Years
It doesn’t take long to spend $500 just to keep an old oil or natural gas furnace running. Furnaces incur the most breakdowns in the last 2 years of their lives. Another repair sign is whether you had to wait to get parts replaced. As a furnace ages, it gets harder to source replacement parts. Waiting that can be really cold on a below zero night.
If the furnace suffers from one problem after the other and you keep spending money on repairs, then buying a new one might be a good idea. After all, furnaces are like cars. As they age, you can replace one part only to need another part replaced or repaired next year.
A thorough inspection might be necessary. Your Aire-Tech technician could point out potential future problems that could lead you toward replacement. Or, the technician may give the furnace the all clear and recommend a few repairs. Either way, making an informed decision is the best strategy.
- Strange Noises Coming From Your Furnace
Old furnaces often start to make some strange noises as they get toward the end of their life. If you are hearing banging, popping, rattling or squealing noises coming from your furnace, your furnace could be experiencing a variety of issues like unsecured ductwork, motor failure, and an unbalanced motor or deteriorating parts.
- Your Furnace is Producing Carbon Monoxide
Any system that could potentially expose you and your family to carbon monoxide needs to be replaced — not repaired — as soon as possible. A furnace with a cracked combustion chamber allows carbon monoxide to leak into your home and should always be replaced immediately.
Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that causes death when inhaled over long periods of time.
If you have a natural gas or propane furnace, a yellow or flickering flame may be a sign that poisonous carbon monoxide could be created by your furnace. Always be mindful and monitor your furnace for any of the signs noted below and always make sure to have carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home, particularly close to your furnace room.
Other possible signs of carbon monoxide are:
- Yellow burner flame instead of blue
- Streaks of soot around furnace
- Absence of an upward draft in your chimney
- Excess moisture found on windows, walls, or other cold surfaces
- Excessive rusting on flue pipes, other pipe connections, or appliance jacks
- Small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent, or flue pipe
- Rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from the outside
Simple Furnace Repairs
If you are trying to decide whether to repair or replace your furnace, there are some easy repairs you can probably do yourself. But remember, if you are unsure, it is best to call a professional to fix your unit instead.
- No Heat
The easiest solution here is checking your thermostat. You might need to change out the batteries for it to work again. You may also need to check the breaker to see if a switch was tripped.
- Not Enough Heat
This might be due to a clogged filter. In most cases, you can simply replace the filter yourself.
- Yellow Flames
The flames in your furnace should be blue and even, if they are yellow, your burners are likely dirty. Your burners should be cleaned on an annual basis or replaced if they are in a bad condition.
- Rapid Cycling
If your furnace is turning on and off too quickly, this may mean that you have a filter issue. Try replacing it. But if that does not fix the problem, it is time to call in the experts.
Sometimes, excessive furnace noise can be due to your ductwork. Try insulating them to see if that stops the issue.
- Smelling Gas
Be careful, this could indicate a gas leak. If it is a strong smell, it is advised that you leave your home immediately and contact your utility company to resolve this issue.
Give Us a Call
If any of these “warning signs” apply to you, it might be time to consider the purchase of a new furnace. Perhaps the time is right to upgrade and start saving money and cease wasting energy.
Whether you want a replacement, repair work, or an inspection, call the offices at Aire-Tech Air Conditioning & Heating today. We give you countless resources to help you explore and learn about HVAC and energy efficient options for your home.
If your system needs repair or inspection, call Aire-Tech on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.