The average Canadian household shells out over $4,000 a year on energy expenditures alone. A huge bulk of that cost is for gasoline and other fuels, especially those for automobiles. However, home heating and cooling also account for a large portion of a home’s energy bills.
In fact, space heating alone accounts for more than 60% of energy use in a typical Canadian home. This can go even higher if you have a really old or defective furnace, though.
To that end, we created this guide listing the signs you need a new furnace. Read on to discover how to tell if you need to replace your existing space heater as soon as possible.
Table of contents
Your Furnace Is More Than a Decade Old
Furnaces have an average lifespan of between 15 and 25 years. For them to last that long, though, they need cleaning and maintenance at least once a year.
Without routine servicing, furnace components can wear out faster and consume more energy. Even those meant to last for 25 years can degrade by the time they hit 10 years without proper maintenance.
So, if your gas furnace is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it. Just be sure to buy a high-efficiency furnace replacement to get the most out of your new system.
Your Energy Bills Keep Rising
Older furnace models tend to have lower annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings. This rating measures a furnace’s efficiency in converting energy to heat.
It’s common for heating systems made in the 1990s or earlier to only have an 80% AFUE rating. That’s their peak performance, which can decrease further due to ageing and lack of upkeep. Either way, an old or inefficient furnace can waste a huge chunk of your heating energy.
That waste translates to higher energy use since your furnace uses more energy to warm up your home.
By contrast, today’s best furnace models have AFUE ratings of over 90%. These systems convert 90% or more of the energy they consume into actual heat. The most efficient models can reach nearly 100% efficiency!
Do note that many other factors, such as air leakage and poor insulation, can also drive your energy bills. These variables can make it harder to pinpoint what’s behind your high energy bills.
Don’t worry, though, as local HVAC contractors offer free in-home assessments. They can determine if it’s your ageing furnace to blame or if you also need to fix air leaks or get new insulation.
Consecutive Furnace Breakdowns
If you’ve scheduled furnace repairs multiple times in the past year, this can be a sign your system is about to fail. At the very least, it can indicate that several other parts will soon break down, too.
Now, keep in mind that furnace repairs can cost anywhere from $80 to a whopping $2,400. Even minor repairs, such as those for flame sensors or burners, can cost hundreds of dollars. Replacing a furnace motor or a heat exchanger can cost $1,200 to $2,400.
If your repair bills would cost you thousands, consider getting a new furnace. Furnace installation, which includes labour and the price of the new unit, starts at about $3,000 (although again, many factors will influence the price of a new unit). For high-efficiency units, expect to pay a minimum of at least $3,500 in most cases.
Granted, $3,000+ is a lot of money, but remember: you’re paying for an entirely new unit. Plus, reputable HVAC contractors offer guarantees and warranties on parts and services.
With a new furnace, you generally won’t have to worry about major repairs for several years. Its high-efficiency rating also reduces your energy bills, so you may start to make back some of your investment over time. You’d only need annual furnace maintenance to maintain its efficiency and smooth operation.
Gas Leaks Due To Severe Furnace Damage
Incorrect installation and lack of furnace maintenance can result in harmful gas leaks. These include natural gas and combustion gas leaks. Severe furnace damage can let these gases mix with the air in your home and cause adverse health effects.
Note that these are generally rare, so it’s not something that should keep you up at night. But it’s important to at least be aware of the signs.
If your furnace is found to be unsafe by a licensed professional, they may be required to red tag your furnace.
Natural Gas Leaks
Natural gas is among the cleanest, safest fuels available to Canadians. However, exposure to it can still cause health problems, as it displaces oxygen. At home, natural gas exposure can occur due to damaged gas lines or furnaces.
Natural gas, in its pure form, doesn’t have any colour, odour, or taste. For this reason, natural gas companies add a substance called mercaptan to it. Mercaptan makes it easier to detect natural gas leaks because it smells like rotten eggs.
Again, while rare, natural gas leaks can result in explosions. As such, it’s a must to close your gas valve and furnace right away if it emits rotten egg smells. Evacuate your home and call an HVAC company and your natural gas provider right away.
Minor natural gas leaks are still repairable. However, if the cause of the leak is too severe and your furnace is also old, it may be best to get it replaced.
Combustion Gas Leaks
Fuel-burning furnaces produce carbon monoxide (CO) and aldehydes as a result of combustion. A properly installed, fully functional furnace keeps these gases contained, though. It does so with its heat exchanger, which acts as a barrier to prevent the gases from leaking out of the furnace.
The heat exchanger is a sheet of metal, which expands when heated and contracts when cold. Over time, all those expansions and contractions can cause the metal to crack. When this happens, the combustion gases can leach into your home.
CO is toxic, and the fact that it’s invisible, odourless, and tasteless makes it even more insidious. Even in low doses, CO exposure can cause headaches, dizziness, and hallucinations. It even caused over 3,000 hospitalizations in Canada from 2002 to 2016.
If you experience CO poisoning symptoms, shut the furnace off and leave the house right away. Visit the nearest clinic or hospital for a check-up, as you may need oxygen therapy.
As for your furnace, get it inspected by a qualified HVAC contractor as soon as possible. If there’s damage to the heat exchanger, you might be better off getting the entire unit replaced. As mentioned above, heat exchanger replacements can cost thousands of dollars.
Keep Your Home Healthy and Warm With a New Furnace
Old age, increasing heating bills, and severe damage are all indicators you need a new furnace. If you’re still unsure whether to fix or replace your unit, have a licensed technician assess it for you.
The most important thing is not to delay necessary furnace repairs or replacements. The last thing you want is to have your heater die in the middle of winter.
If you’re ready to learn more about new furnaces, FurnacePrices.ca can help. Let us know what you’re looking for in a furnace, and we’ll send you quotes that you can compare.