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When should I replace my furnace?

When should I replace my furnace?

If you have an older gas furnace you may be wondering how much longer it has before needing to be replaced. In this article, find out what causes a furnace to age, ways to extend its life, if you should start looking for a replacement, and what to consider when buying a new one.

Furnace lifespan
Based on a variety of sources, the average lifespan of a gas furnace can range from 15 to 30 years depending on a number of factors. Some furnaces have been known to last more than 30 years however most experts recommend that you begin shopping for a new furnace when your existing equipment is about 15 years old.

Even if your current furnace is still working, it’s a good idea to be prepared by educating yourself on your options. Technology is always changing and geared towards saving energy. You will find that investing in a newer more energy-efficient furnace can save you more money in the long run. Also, furnaces 15 years or older may require more frequent costly repairs.

There are many factors that affect the aging of your furnace. Lack of professional maintenance, over usage, extreme weather conditions, improperly sized equipment, and/or poor installation can shorten the life of your furnace. Additionally, not all furnaces are the same. Some models are of higher quality and can withstand the stress of cycling on and off during the heating season better than others.

Extend your furnace’s lifespan
One way to extend the lifespan of your furnace is by getting yearly professional maintenance. Our Star program furnace maintenance consists of:

  • Checking the burners
  • Cleaning the burners
  • Adjusting gas pressure
  • Adjusting and cleaning blower components
  • Checking and adjusting pilot operation
  • Lubricating all moving parts
  • Monitoring flue draft for safe operation
  • Checking and tightening all loose electrical connections
  • Checking and testing safety controls
  • Monitoring voltage and amperage draw on all motors
  • Adjusting air flow for proper temperature rise
  • Checking heat anticipator settings
  • Checking thermostat
  • Monitoring furnace cycle
  • Checking for cracked heat exchanger
  • Making recommendations for system improvements

Furnace maintenance extends the life of your equipment because the parts are clean, lubricated, and properly adjusted. Also, the HVAC technician can catch any issues that may be developing. A small problem with unmaintained equipment can turn into a big one which can end up costing you more than the maintenance itself.

Ways YOU can help extend the life of your furnace

  • Check your furnace filter once a month and change it when it gets dirty  – A dirty filter causes your furnace to have to work extra hard to pull air that needs to be distributed through your home which increases your energy bill and decreases the quality of your home’s indoor air.
  • Air seal your home  – Air leakage through cracks and openings in your home will cause your furnace to work extra hard to keep your home warm. You can seal trouble areas with caulk and weather stripping.
  • Improve insulation  – Adequate insulation in the walls, ceiling, and attic will help prevent heat from escaping your home thus decreasing strain on your furnace.
  • Check ductwork  – 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through your system can be lost due to leaks, holes, poorly connected ducts, and/or an improperly designed duct system. Poor ductwork will cause additional stress on your furnace to keep your home warm.

End of lifespan warning signs
If you don’t want to wait until your furnace completely breaks down before buying a new one, you may want to watch for the warning signs that your furnace’s life is about to end. Noticing the warning signs will save you from having to make a rushed decision to get a new one while you are stuck freezing in the cold.

Signs that your furnace is approaching the end of its lifespan:

  • Increasing energy bills  – If your energy bill seems to be increasing every winter, it’s likely your furnace’s efficiency is decreasing.
  • Uneven heating  – As your furnace’s performance declines, you may notice some areas of your home colder than others.
  • Poor air quality  – At the end of a gas furnace’s life, it can struggle to prevent humidity issues, excessive dust, and rust particles from entering your home’s air.
  • Frequent cycling  – Your furnace shouldn’t have to frequently cycle on and off to keep your house warm. If you notice frequent cycling, there may be a problem or your furnace is nearing its end.
  • Frequent repairs  – If it seems like every year you have to spend more and more money on repairing your furnace, it may be wise to start looking for a replacement.

50% RULE If the cost of repairs is 50% or more than the cost of replacement, you should most likely replace it.

  • Yellow burner flame  – Normally your furnace’s burner flame should be blue with a small yellow tip at the center of the flame. If your flame is almost completely yellow, this is a dangerous indication that your furnace may be producing carbon monoxide.

Signs of carbon monoxide:

  • Streaks of soot around your furnace
  • Lack of an upward draft in your chimney
  • Excessive moisture on your windows, walls, and other cold surfaces
  • Excess rusting on flue pipes, pipe connections, and appliance jacks
  • Leaking water from the base of the chimney, vent, or flue pipe
  • Visible rust on a portion of the vent pipe

Every person should have carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout their home due to the fact that odorless colorless gas can be deadly. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

What to consider when looking for a replacement
Furnaces are rated by the AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) ratio which is the percent of heat produced for every dollar of fuel consumed. A furnace with an AFUE of 80 will turn 80% of its fuel into reusable heat while the other 20% is lost somewhere throughout the process. Similar to your car’s MPG rating, the higher the AFUE, the lower your fuel costs.

In California, the minimum AFUE rating for a gas furnace is 78. According to the EPA, a mid-efficiency unit has an AFUE rating of between 80 and 83 percent, while a high-efficiency unit has a rating between 90 and 97 percent. A high-efficiency gas furnace may cost more upfront but will save you more money in energy costs in the long run.

Are you ready to replace your furnace? Schedule a free estimate today!