Your furnace is a big investment, one that’s crucial to your family’s health, comfort and safety. Whether repairing it or replacing it is the best option is a common question. The answer? That depends. Multiple factors determine which course is right for your particular situation. An HVAC professional can help you evaluate your specific needs and equipment in order to help you make the right choice. In the meantime, these guidelines can help you make an initial assessment.
When Repairing is Best
- Furnace is less than 10 years old.
- Furnace is still heating your home efficiently and evenly .
- Your heating bills haven’t been increasing over time.
A furnace that is under 10 years old most likely still has years of useful life. If your heating bills have remained steady, and you generally experience even heating throughout your home, then your furnace is still operating with efficiency. Some problems with uneven heating may be resolved with a furnace repair, or by addressing other issues such as duct leaks, insufficient insulation, or weatherproofing. A NATE-certified HVAC technician can help you find ways to improve the performance and efficiency of your system that will allow you delay replacing it for a few more years..
A general rule of thumb is, weighing the cost of the repair against the cost of a new furnace, if the repair is less than one-third the cost of a new heating system — and your current system meets the criteria above — then doing the repair makes good economic sense.
When Replacement is Best:
- Furnace is more than 15 years old.
- Your furnace was built before 1992.
- Frequency of repairs is increasing.
- Utility bills are increasing.
- Original furnace was improperly installed and not the correct size.
- You have a cracked heat exchanger and the warranty has expired.
A furnace that is more than 15 years old is nearing the end of its useful life (typically 15-20 years) and the money you would put into continued repairs is probably better spent investing in a new, more efficient heating system. If your furnace was built before 1992, this is definitely the case because, compared to today’s models, those much older furnaces are only 65% efficient. This means they also cost significantly more in energy costs each month.
If you are experiencing the need for more frequent repairs or if you’ve seen your utility bills increasing, replacement is most likely the better option. The cost of repairs that don’t keep your system running smoothly for any length of time can quickly add up, and then you still have have an old, inefficient furnace that is expensive to operate.
In some cases, age is not the issue. A heating system that was improperly sized or poorly installed can be costing you money while not providing adequate comfort. Many small fixes over time will cost more than a new system that is sized and installed correctly. If you’ve inherited a furnace that is under 10 years old, but was not properly maintained you may also find replacing it will be more cost effective than undoing existing damage.
A system that needs a major repair that is no longer covered by the warranty, such as a cracked heat exchanger, needs to be replaced. The heat exchanger itself cannot easily or effectively be replaced and cannot be repaired.