Your Heating System: Repair or Replace?

If your furnace is more than 15 years old, you may find yourself at a crossroads. Do you repair it, hoping to squeeze a couple more years out of it, or replace it?

If the prospect of pushing your central heating system through another bitter New Jersey winter makes you nervous, then it’s time to give your furnace a thorough assessment.

Here’s what to take into consideration before making a decision.

How Old is Your Furnace?

The average furnace lasts 15 years -- 20 years tops with routine maintenance. During those last few remaining years of useful life, a breakdown may signal the need for a completely new heating system. Then again, maybe it doesn’t. If the repair is minor, it might make sense to put a proverbial Band-Aid on it.

But to make that decision, you need to know the age of your furnace. If you can’t recall when your heating unit was installed, or if the central air system was already in place when you moved in, you’ll need to do some digging to determine its age.

  • Find the rating plate: The rating plate contains the furnace’s technical specifications, as well as the model and serial numbers. It’s typically located on the furnace cabinet or inside the access panel. It’s the serial number you want to pay attention to.
  • Decode the serial number: Most of the top heating and cooling brands incorporate the date of manufacture into the serial number. Commonly, the first four digits tell the story. For example, a serial number reading 11133CA5465 could be interpreted to mean the furnace rolled off the assembly line in the 11th week of 2013. In which case, you have a 7-year-old furnace. Congratulations! No replacement necessary.

How Has Your Furnace Been Performing?

It doesn’t always take a full-on breakdown before you realize you need a new furnace.

If your furnace doesn’t provide the same level of comfort that it once did, or if your utility bills have been creeping up, your heating system may be past its prime.

Watch for these red flags that your furnace is on borrowed time.

Your Comfort Has Diminished

You’ve replaced the filter, swept away leaves and debris from the outside unit, checked the thermostat, and the furnace still isn’t producing adequate heat. That indicates a problem beyond your abilities to fix. This could be an issue with the intermittent pilot, heat exchanger, or some other complication.

Energy Bills Are Rising

Compare your electricity bill (or gas bill, if you have a gas furnace) with your billing statement from a year ago. If your costs have increased, your furnace is likely to blame. Furnaces lose efficiency as they age, even with routine maintenance.

The Furnace is Noisy

A forced-air furnace will make a certain amount of noise, but anything out of the ordinary is cause for concern. Rattling, humming, screeching, and buzzing indicate loose or misaligned parts or other issues.

How Much Will the Repair Cost?

Before you decide to repair or replace, get several estimates for the repair cost and compare them against a new unit's price. If the repair costs you half the price of a new furnace, it may be more cost-effective to replace it, especially if your system is older than 15 years.

What Are the Advantages of Upgrading?

Today’s furnaces are significantly more efficient than those of 10 and 20 years ago. That means a dramatically lower heating bill. When you buy a new unit, pay close attention to the AFUE. That’s the annual fuel utilization efficiency rating. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the system. Top-of-the-line models achieve an AFUE of 95% or higher. That means the unit wastes only 5% of fuel to generate heat.

New furnaces also feature two-stage or variable-speed motors to provide more consistent heat at a lower capacity. That means more comfort and cost savings.

Bottom line: If you’re questioning how much time your furnace has left, turn to the experts at Guaranteed Service for a maintenance inspection. Our experienced HVAC technicians will assess the condition of your heating system and walk you through your options. To schedule your appointment, call (732) 412-1134.