When it comes to heating your home, the question often arises whether you should repair or replace your furnace. On the one hand, you know what you have with your current system, and the thought is that repairs are often less than a replacement. But on the other hand, a new system would mean fewer repairs, better efficiency, and more reliability. Consider the following factors when deciding whether to repair or replace your furnace.

The Age of Your Furnace

The average forced air gas furnace should last between 15 and 20 years when it’s properly maintained. While your unit may continue running longer than this, there are specific risks you’ll encounter, including reduced efficiency, less reliability, and a higher risk of mid-winter breakdowns.

If your furnace is nearing the 15-year mark, you may consider starting to plan for a replacement. Take into account the following factors to determine when is the right time to install that replacement.

Consider Your Repairs

Your unit’s repairs are a key consideration when deciding whether it’s time for a replacement or not. You don’t want to install a new system prematurely, but you also want to avoid throwing money away to repair a system that needs replacing. There are two primary considerations around repairs: the cost for the current repairs and the recent history of repairs.

Cost of Current Repairs

The first repair consideration is the cost of the current repairs. While there are many problems with relatively low costs, there are a few that are considered catastrophic because of their costs. One such repair is a cracked heat exchanger. Most HVAC companies won’t even attempt to replace the heat exchanger, in part due to the safety considerations. Damaged heat exchangers allow carbon monoxide to leak into your home, a major safety consideration for your entire family.

The general rule of thumb for a single repair is 50% of the cost of a new system. In most cases, especially for aging systems, if the cost of a single repair is more than half the cost of a new system, it’s time to opt for a replacement.

Recent Repair History

Single repair costs aren’t the only consideration. Rather, you should consider the total cost of repairs for the last two seasons or last season plus the costs you’re evaluating this year. Multiply the total repair costs by the age of the system. Once this exceeds the cost of a new system, it’s time for that replacement.

How Comfortable Is Your Home?

One of the reasons many property owners start considering a replacement is because their home isn’t as comfortable as it once was. There are many reasons your system may not be keeping your home comfortable, including something as simple as a clogged air filter.

However, as furnaces age, they may not continue heating your home effectively. This can come from a worn-out circulating fan motor, airflow restrictions in the system, or even a maladjusted heat sensor or dirty burners. All of these are something you can repair. However, you should evaluate the cost of repairs versus the cost of replacing your furnace as outlined in the previous section.

Consider Your Unit’s Warranty

Most manufacturers offer a factory warranty on their units to cover the event of a factory defect. Depending on the unit you purchase and the manufacturer, these may range from 5 to 10 years. Some manufacturers offer a standard 5-year warranty and will extend it to 10 years when you register your system.

Even though you will still pay labor fees for warranty work, you’ll save money on parts. As you consider how to best plan to heat your home, consider the warranty you’ll get as part of the new system.

Your System’s Maintenance History

Your furnace requires routine maintenance to give you the best efficiency now and to allow you to get the expected service life. As your system runs, it experiences several issues that reduce its efficiency and increase operational wear. First, the system will vibrate. This will slowly loosen mounting hardware and electrical connections. Next, as a gas-burning furnace, it’ll produce some soot which will make the burners and heat sensor dirty, causing them not to work properly. Finally, some airborne contaminants will find their way into the system and settle on components like the circulating fan wheel and heat exchanger.

Additionally, various components in the system will wear out over time before it’s time to replace the unit. These components will strain other parts of the system if left to operate suboptimally. A technician will test the unit’s components to ensure you have the opportunity to replace components showing signs of wear before they can strain the system.

Neglecting maintenance increases the overall wear on the system, shortening its service life. If you haven’t kept up on your annual furnace maintenance, you may consider replacing the unit as early as 10 to 12 years rather than 15 to 20 years.

System Efficiency

Your furnace’s efficiency measures how much heat it puts into your home compared to the heat it loses in exhaust. This rating is known as AFUE or the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. If your unit is more than 20 years old, chances are the minimum standards have changed. The current minimum efficiency rating is 80% AFUE, which is up from the minimum 78% that was in place until 2015. In 2015, the standards were split based on region and raised to 80% for non-weatherized models. The 2% efficiency improvement can save you up to about 3% annually.

Are You Planning to Sell Your Home?

One contested consideration is how quickly you plan to sell your home. On one hand, installing a new furnace won’t usually increase your property value. However, it can make your home more attractive and easier to push through negotiations. How quickly you want your home to sell may affect whether this is a good move as you prepare to list it.

If you plan to stay in your home for at least another 10 years, it may make sense to invest in a new furnace. This will give you peace of mind that it’ll improve your system’s heating efficiency and give you the peace of mind that it’s not going to break down over the winter.

Current Tax Incentives

Finally, consider the tax incentives of installing a new furnace. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 either created or extended several tax credits for installing a newer, higher-efficiency furnace. If your furnace is nearing the end of its service life, you may be able to get a credit of up to $600 for installing a high-efficiency model.

When people around El Cajon want heating and cooling services they can trust, they turn to the family-owned Comfort Bros Heating, Air & Plumbing. Our NATE-certified technicians provide AC and heating installation, maintenance, and repair together with indoor air quality solutions and duct cleaning. Call to schedule a consultation with one of our expert furnace installation specialists today.

Meet the Author
Nicholas Gildark
Nicholas Gildark

Nicholas Gildark is a San Diego native who comes from a tight knit family and enjoys spending time with them. Nicholas is engaged to his beautiful fiance Allison Velasquez. The two of them recently purchased a home.
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