Should You Replace Your Furnace? 5 Key Questions to Ask Yourself
Not sure if it’s time to replace furnace this winter? We’ll tell you the right questions to ask to determine if it’s time to upgrade your furnace.
When it comes to making a major investment in your home, it can be hard to know whether you should stick with what you have and keep it going with repairs and servicing, or if you should replace it with a brand new system. We do it with our cars, carefully weighing up if it’s going to be worth putting more money into the one we’ve got, or if it’s smarter to start out with a new ride. Your furnace is no different.
If you are pondering replacing your current furnace, there are some other questions you need to consider first:
1. How old is your furnace?
Like all appliances, furnaces have a life expectancy. The accepted range is from 15 to 20 years, but there are a number of factors that can shorten the life of a unit. In order to maximize the longevity of your home heating system, it needs to be professionally installed and regularly maintained. Without proper maintenance, a furnace can break down well before 15 years.
Your furnace’s age isn’t a perfect indicator on its own of course. You may notice that your furnace is not running quite as efficiently as it has in the past. It may seem that all the areas of your home are no longer consistently heated. You may also be experiencing temperature fluctuations over time. Either of these symptoms can indicate a unit that is reaching its end of life.
2. Are your home heating costs creeping up?
Higher heating bills can be explained by a number of things. They can be a result of poor insulation, aging windows, or leaking ductwork. Heating costs can also reflect increased usage which could be due to a particularly harsh winter.
In some cases, a furnace’s efficiency can decrease somewhat over time, though this isn’t likely to result in a major difference in your heating bills on its own, unless there is something actually wrong with your unit. Sometimes a tune up and new air filter can help address this.
That being said, after 15 or 20 years, even a well-maintained furnace will have lost some of its initial efficiency, so this may be a factor to consider in combination with some of the others mentioned here.
3. Is your home being heated as effectively as usual?
Cold or overly warm spots in different areas of your home can be a clue pointing to a struggling home heating system. Another warning sign can be inconsistent temperature throughout the day or day to day. If your furnace is no longer able to keep your abode a consistent temperature, it may signal that your system is headed for a costly repair or breakdown.
4. Could your furnace be reaching the end of its operating life?
If your furnace has broken down completely or has had a spate of costly fixes, you may be throwing money away on a temporary solution. Frequent repairs can be an indication that components are starting to wear out, but some maintenance is also to be expected. So although a major costly repair is never fun, sometimes it can keep your unit running for many more years without issue.
Depending on how long you have had your unit, your warranty may also be up, meaning that you will have to foot the bill for refurbishments. Some contractors advise that if repair costs are equal to, or greater than, 50% of the cost of a new furnace, it would be wise to replace furnace.
Have you been red-tagged?
If a technician discovers a catastrophic issue with your furnace like a cracked heat exchanger, she or he may red tag it. A red tag comes in two categories: Type A or Type B. A Type A red tag means that an immediate danger, for example a carbon dioxide leak has been identified and the gas company will be advised to immediately shut off service until necessary repairs are made.
If you receive a Type B tag, there is no imminent danger, but your unit still has critical issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. You will have a certain amount of time to repair or replace furnace, otherwise your gas could be turned off by your local utility.
5. Do separate factors add up to an answer?
While any of the above can mean higher costs and frustrations, they may be manageable in isolation. Once you realize that you have more than one issue centering on your home heating system, your decision might be that much clearer.
Any combination of factors can influence as to whether you should replace your home heating system. If the benefits, like higher efficiency, energy cost savings and warranty coverage outweigh your current costs, like high energy bills and impending costly repairs, a new furnace may be a wise investment.
Another factor to consider is timing.
If it’s late fall and a long heating season is on the horizon and your unit appears to be on its last legs, it may be a good idea to consider replacing your unit. The last thing you want is to be caught scrambling with no heat in the middle of a cold snap.
Unsurprisingly, HVAC contractors see peak demand on the coldest days of the year when furnaces are most likely to be overworked and break down. This can make getting emergency service, whether for repairs or a new unit installation harder and more expensive.
It’s never ideal to be shopping for an expensive purchase in a state of urgency! Especially when suppliers are dealing with the highest demand.
We have all the information you need on how to decide what new furnace to buy, including impartial assessments of all the top-selling Canadian brands.
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