Before repairing or replacing your gas furnace, here are 5 telltale signs that your heating system has reached the end of its useful life. It’s best to start investigating now in the fall instead of the middle of winter when you are rushed into a decision. Since nearly 30% of our annual energy bill (approximately $2,200) goes towards heating, it’s a good idea to spend the time now to decide on a new furnace or not.
There are many factors that play a role in the decision to replace your furnace, but here are 5 signs that your furnace needs to be replaced, along with tips for prolonging its useful life:
1. Old Age (furnace is over 16 years old)
The average life expectancy of your home’s oil or natural gas furnace is between 16 and 20 years. If your furnace is near this age or older, it’s time to start shopping! You’ll want to start right away since waiting till the last minute often produces rushed and unwise decisions.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, it’s probably a good decision to replace your furnace at its 20-year mark, when energy efficiency drops to around 78% AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) or lower.
What is AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency)?
“AFUE is the ratio of annual heat output of the furnace or boiler compared to the total annual fossil fuel energy consumed by a furnace or boiler.” (energy.gov)
AFUE is basically the energy efficiency rating system for your heating system. A 97% AFUE furnace is able to use 97% of the energy it consumes to heat your home (the other 3% escapes through your pipes and ventilation system).
It is a hard decision to make considering just how expensive a new furnace can be, but you could possibly be spending more money keeping your old furnace than you would by replacing it. Financially, when your furnace reaches 18-20 years old, it’s smarter to replace than to repair. Get a higher return on investment when you replace your 82% AFUE or lower furnace with a high efficiency 93-97% AFUE furnace.
The lifespan of a furnace can vary based on how often a technician services it, so if you want your furnace to live a long and happy life, schedule annual maintenance with a technician at R. A. Styron. Another good reason to schedule annual furnace maintenance is that your factory warranty will most likely requires regular service visits.
2. High Energy Bills
If you’re noticing a rise in energy costs, address the issue promptly. As your furnace ages, it will lose its efficiency, especially if it hasn’t been properly maintained. Consequently, your furnace may run longer, only to provide the same amount of heat and hike up your bill. One quick thing you can do to increase your unit’s efficiency is to change your air filters (check every month and change/clean the filter every 1-3 months depending upon usage and other factors). You can hold up your filter to the light for a quick test – if you cannot see light passing through, it’s time to change your filter.
3. Frequent Repairs
If you’re on a name-by-name basis with a technician, it’s time to start shopping for a new furnace. Frequent, costly repairs can add up, costing almost the same or more than a brand new furnace! It may cost more upfront, but replacing your furnace will save you more money long-term.
50% RULE: If the cost of repairs is 50% or more the cost of replacement, you should probably replace it.
4. Uneven Temperatures
If you feel that some rooms are too hot while others are too cold, or you’re constantly adjusting the thermostat to try and make the house more comfortable, you may want to consider shopping around for a new furnace. Similarly, if you have noticed that your heating bill keeps going up year after year, it may be more economical to replace your system than to keep using an inefficient HVAC system.
5. Yellow Burner Flame
A properly functioning gas furnace has a flame that is blue with a small yellow tip at the flame’s inner cone. If your flame is almost entirely yellow, this signifies that you have a very serious and potentially dangerous problem as it could be producing carbon monoxide.
Signs of carbon monoxide include:
- Streaks of soot around your furnace
- Absence of an upward draft in your chimney
- Excess moisture on your windows, walls and other cold place
- Excessive rusting on flue pipes, pipe connections, and appliance jacks
- Water leaking form the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe
- Rust on the visible portion of the vent pipe
Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home since the gas is both colorless and odorless. Remember to test your smoke and CO detectors every 6 months by pressing the test button and waiting for the beep/alarm.
Also, remember to schedule annual furnace maintenance in the fall to prevent any carbon monoxide problems from your heating system during midwinter.
Furnace Replacement Benefits:
- Convenience – less repairs means less waiting around for your service technician to arrive, diagnose the issue, go back for parts, return, and then have a similar issues weeks later.
- Lower energy bills – heating and cooling accounts for over half of our annual energy bill, with about 30% of your annual bill going towards heating.
- Peace of mind – with professional heating installations from a qualified HVAC contractor, any safety or reliability issues will be addressed to keep it running as close to its factory settings as possible. Annual furnace maintenance will also ensure your manufacturer’s warranties remain in effect!