When Should I Replace My Heater?
A question we find homeowners asking a lot, “When should I replace my furnace?” It’s a tough question for a homeowner to answer or get an honest answer to because it’s the most expensive appliance in your home. But at some point good bye to your old furnace is inevitable. So when is the best time to do that?
Here are 3 signs that it’s time to replace your furnace.
1. Your furnace has reached expected lifespan
Furnaces live an average of 15-20 years, depending on if you had it professionally maintained or not. Age isn’t everything, though. The cost to keep the furnace running will give you more concrete reasons to replace or not. Newer furnaces come with energy efficient motors and updated heat exchangers/firebox to increase the overall efficiency of your furnace.
2. Increased cost and frequency of furnace repairs
Much like an old car, an old heating system that starts to have costly breakdowns is signaling that it’s near the end of its usable life and needs to be replaced soon usually when costly repairs become regular and you are frequently taking days off work to wait for a furnace repair tech. How expensive does a repair need to be before it’s not worth it? It depends on how old your furnace is and the cost to get a new furnace. A good rule of thumb in the HVAC industry is, no matter the age of the furnace, if the cost to repair is 40-50% of the cost of a new furnace, you should replace it. But for less expensive repairs, you should be less resistant to replacing the furnace the older it is. So if the furnace is 15-20 years old, and the cost to repair said furnace is only 10% of the cost of a new furnace, you should really consider replacing it, more than likely it will break down on you some time in the near future.
For example: You have an old furnace that’s 20 years old and the repair would costs you $300, and the cost of a new furnace would be $3,000 then you should look at getting it replaced rather than repairing it. Ask one of our experts to get a more detailed assessment of replacing your furnace based on your situation and set up.
3. Utility Bills that have risen noticeably over the years
Even if your furnace has a few years left in it, it may not be cost efficient to keep it if your utility bills during the heating season are much higher due to the furnace’s bad efficiency. With that in mind, you need to assess how much it’s costing you just to keep the current furnace you have versus how much you’ll save with a new furnace.
Recently Asked Question
Question: I recently purchased a 1,720-square-foot home with a 9-year-old gas furnace rated at 80 percent efficiency. The rise in gas heating costs from the gas company has me wondering if I should upgrade the furnace, or maybe even convert to a different type of fuel. Maybe even a high efficiency Heat Pump Can you help me decide?
—Claire Johnson, Oxnard CA
Answer: To make your decision, you need to weigh a few factors: your furnace efficiency, the cost of fuel, and the “heating load” of your house—that’s the amount of energy (BTU’s) required to maintain a steady 65-70-degree temperature indoors.
Fuel costs are a real wild card these days, though, gas is competitively priced, so I don’t think it makes much sense to switch to oil, Heat Pump or electric Heat. Also, your furnace is already pretty efficient, though not as good as the best condensing-type 90-95% gas furnaces, which capture up to 95 percent of the fuel’s energy into your living space. If your furnace were old and worn out, your decision would be easy—buy a more efficient model—but the average life of a well-maintained furnace is 15-20 years, so yours still has plenty of life in it.
If you did replace your furnace with a 95 percent efficient system, you’d cut your heating bills around 20 percent. To see if it’s worth spending the money, add up the fuel bills for last winter—your gas utility will have records—then multiply that sum by 20 percent. Divide that figure into the cost of buying and installing the new system, about $3,000-$5200+ or so depending on installation requirements and city codes, and you’ll see how many years it will take to recoup your investment in the heater you purchase.
Given the size of your house, I doubt you’ll see a payoff anytime soon, even if you add 50 percent to last year’s bills to account for this winter’s projected increase in natural gas costs. Of course, every dollar that gas prices go up will shorten the payback time, but prices could also fall and lengthen the payback.
If it were my house, I’d first look for ways to reduce the heating load. A properly insulated house will help along with looking for air leakage in between doors and windows. That will probably uncover some relatively inexpensive upgrades. Also, ask the company that maintains your furnace about ways to improve its performance. For instance, you might be able to replace a standard pilot light with electronic ignition or seal the joints in your leaky ductwork. These minor improvements will help reduce heating costs and make you more comfortable without draining your bank account.
—Andrew A, Service Manager