Safety and Energy Efficiency Factors When Replacing/Repairing Furnace

By Susan Nichol

That's a tough question...there are several things to consider.

The first question that comes to mind when determining if it should be repaired or replaced is does it have any safety issues and then how old is it? (Pictured below, older unit, rusting, dirty, likelyhood of more repairs is high.)  If there is a safety issue, it must be replaced, serious injury, sickness or even death can result from an unsafe furnace.  The safety issues include fire, carbon monoxide (colorless odorless gas that can kill) and gas leaks.

Efficiency is a good thing to consider especially when you want to find ways to pay for the improvement. Older furnaces can be anywhere from 40% to 80% efficient.  An 80% efficient furnace is newer than the 40% efficient furnace.  Think about it if your furnace is 50% efficient and you can upgrade to a standard 80% or even a 98% efficient furnace, you will be saving a lot in energy efficiency. To make it easier to understand a 40% furnace uses 40 cents of every dollar of gas that goes into it and allows 60 cents to go up the flue.  Compare that to an 80% efficient (or AFUE) furnace where 80 cents is used for heating your home and only 20 cents up the flue.

Lin Robertson inside furnace panel-resized-600A PG&E representative recently suggested starting to look for a new furnace when yours is at about 12-15 years old, other sources I checked with all appear to fall within the same range although many suggest 15 years.  15 years is about the average life of the normal furnace.  There are factors that affect this like regular preventative maintenance and usage.

Generally, it makes more sense to install a new unit when the unit is 15 years old because other parts will continue to deteriorate, repair bills can become is fairly high and a new furnace is usually more energy efficient.

Consider these points before replacement:

The Furnace is fairly new- Check the warranty - some manufacturers warranty their parts for up to 10 years and most newer units will likely be under warranty. In this case unless the parts that have broken are not under warranty and they are expensive items it makes sense to fix the unit rather than replae.  Keep in mind warranties typically cover parts and not the labor.

Inexpensive Repair - sometimes, a small repair is needed that is inexpensive. For a newer furnace with a small issue a few hundred dollars may be enough to get your furnace up and running.  Don't choose on price alone.

An Aging Furnace - a decision has to be made - just like with an aging car, repair and pray or replace.  Let's say for this repair the cost is just about $600, there is no telling when the next part will fail.  It may make sense for replacement instead of throwing good money after bad into a furnace over 15 years old.

Also Consider - Was the furnace well maintained by a professional technician semi-annually or annually (if AC maintenance should be spring and fall) a poorly maintained furnace has a bigger chance of other parts failing as well.

Energy Efficiency - There are some really energy efficient advances in heating even just recently.  The older units can be 50-70% efficient, some even state energy efficient and they are 80% efficient.  Today we are installing units as efficient as 98%.  This efficiency rating is labeled as AFUE.  Energy efficiency needs to be considered when thinking about replacement.  The difference in your heating energy bill could be 20-48% better than what is in your home today.

Lastly make sure you have a licensed, insured, experienced and certified contractor to either repair or replace your furnace.

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If you need help with temperature, contact Cold Craft, Inc.

408.374.7292 or INFO@COLDCRAFT.COM

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