Do You Need Furnace Repair or Replacement?
When a furnace has begun struggling or shut down completely, most everyone would prefer to choose the simplest and least expensive option. A quick fix may not be that perfect solution, however. Heating professionals should never simply recommend a furnace replacement just to sell more equipment. To the homeowner, the question is a matter of weighing short-term costs, the life expectancy of the equipment, and the quality of heating and energy efficiency that you expect.
Before assuming that either furnace repair or replacement is right for you, let’s examine the issues at play and how to weigh your options.
When Repairs Won’t Cut It
Between furnace repair or replacement, the wrong choice can hurt you in the long run. In some cases, you could notice setbacks just days later. The technician can probably get your broken furnace to turn on again by replacing some small parts. But what if the furnace is now running very inefficiently? You’re now paying spiked utility bills.
Furnaces that need to be replaced will also perform poorly. This causes hot and cold spots around the house, poor indoor air quality, and odd noises or odors. An inadequately repaired furnace might even present a heightened risk of a house fire or carbon monoxide exposure.
It’s also best to avoid jumping to the conclusion that replacement is the best option. While a new furnace will almost assuredly be more energy efficient, don’t expect the furnace to pay for itself anytime soon unless you are replacing older equipment.
Benefits of Troubleshooting Issues
By making all necessary repairs or determining that a full furnace replacement is the best option, you’ll be sure to enjoy better heating:
- Maximum energy efficiency to save you money on fuel
- Reliable heating for the rest of the fall and winter
- Avoiding the extra costs of repeated repairs or unnecessary replacement
- Better indoor air quality
- Safety and peace of mind
When one thing goes wrong with your furnace, other problems may pop up. In older equipment, wear and tear can cause multiple parts to break down around the same time. If the furnace has been running with a worn out part, other parts may have been overtaxed and are now damaged, too.
All of this makes it important to get advanced diagnostics. By finding the root issues and examining all of the many parts, the heating technician can add up everything that needs to be repaired or replaced. This way you avoid spending a small fortune on a new furnace you don’t need, and you won’t have another breakdown just a week later.
How to Decide Between Furnace Replacement or Repairs
After a heating expert has diagnosed the problem, the homeowner can look at a few options before deciding. You can anticipate what to expect based on the conditions described below.
Repairs will typically solve your heating trouble in these circumstances:
- The system is less than 10 years old. Life expectancy for a furnace typically ranges from 12 to 25 years. The younger the furnace, the less likely a major breakdown has occurred and the more likely a repair will be most cost-effective.
- There are no recent changes to system efficiency. Struggling furnaces are more likely to have massive systemwide problems calling for a replacement. If the furnace has simply stopped turning on, you probably just have a broken part or connection.
- You have clogged air filters. Cleaning the filters should get things working smoothly again. If the filters get clogged faster than they should, other changes may be needed but the furnace itself is not likely the culprit.
- You are experiencing thermostat problems. Electrical problems and broken thermostats can make it seem like your furnace is broken. The thermostat may just need tightened connections or recalibration, or you might upgrade to a modern smart thermostat.
- Ductwork needs professional cleaning. Are rooms getting heated unevenly? Does the vent let out dusty or lukewarm air? Furnace efficiency depends on clean ductwork.
Telltale signs that you should replace your furnace include:
- The furnace is older than 15 years. Take the current problems as a sign. Old furnaces cost you with inefficiency and will likely need more repairs soon. Replacement may actually be your cheapest option when all is said and done.
- You notice higher costs on energy bills. Compare your bills to the same months from previous years to see how much the costs have been spiking. At some point in a furnace’s life cycle, cleaning and tune-ups cannot restore the equipment’s maximum efficiency. Older furnaces can continue to work while gradually losing efficiency. The problem only gets worse until eventually, the furnace fails completely.
- Your system is emitting carbon monoxide. Furnaces produce carbon monoxide as they burn fuel, but the lethal fumes are supposed to be safely escorted away through the flue. If the airways get clogged or the heat exchanger cracks, the carbon monoxide gas can leak out. The amount may be small at first, but no amount is safe. Replace it before this turns into a life-threatening problem.
- Your furnace is improperly sized. Undersized furnaces have much shorter lifespans because they get overworked. Either the home will always be insufficiently heated or your energy bills will be much higher than they should be. Oversized furnaces can be problematic, too. They achieve the desired temperature very quickly, then cycle off. All that on-and-off cycling wears down the parts rapidly.
- Breakdowns and repairs have become frequent. Each repair may seem minor, but something is wrong if your furnace can’t make it through the rest of heating season without another repair.
Figuring out the best solution for a furnace problem requires some troubleshooting and advice by an HVAC professional. Before you invest in a new furnace or try to get by this winter with small repairs, make sure to have your heating equipment looked at by a friendly expert that you can trust.