When to Replace Your Furnace

October 1, 2019


When the temperatures start to dip, there’s nothing better than cozying up and watching the frosty winterscape from the safety and comfort of your warm home. Your furnace is what keeps your home heated and comfortable during those cooler months and while you may not pay attention to it much, you’ll definitely notice it during a cold snap when it stops working. So if you’re suddenly donning more layers and reaching for a beanie while inside your house, it might be time to start looking for a new furnace.

There are three main types of furnaces: natural gas, oil, and electric. Regardless of what type of furnace you have, heating typically costs up to 42% of your energy bill, a large chunk of your total utility costs. If you’re experiencing inconsistent or uncomfortable temperatures throughout your home, there’s a good chance that it’s time to replace your heating unit.

We’ve assembled a guide to help you better understand when to replace your furnace, its typical lifespan, and the costs to replace it.

Keep reading for a comprehensive overview or jump to the section relevant to your query.

How Long Does a Furnace Last?

According to the National Association of Homebuilders and Bank of America, the average furnace lasts between 15 and 20 years. That said, age isn’t the only consideration you should make when you’re deciding whether or not to replace your furnace.

Signs You Should Consider a New Furnace

  1. Older than 15 years: When your furnace is nearing the end of its operational life, it’s probably becoming less efficient and more expensive to maintain.
  2. Higher energy bills: Are your energy bills suddenly higher than usual despite you using the same amount of energy? This could point to an issue with your furnace.
  3. Costly repairs: If repairs are extremely expensive, you may find it makes more sense to upgrade. While a replacement furnace might cost more at the outset, the long term savings of a more efficient system may be worth it.
  4. Inconsistent temperatures: There are few things more uncomfortable than being cold in your own home. If you’re dealing with hot and cold spots throughout the interior of your house, that’s a telltale sign your furnace isn’t efficiently delivering hot air throughout your home.
  5. Excessive soot or dirt: This may mean your furnace has too much carbon dioxide, plus it’s not great for you or your family’s health if large quantities get circulated through your home.
  6. Cracks or corrosion: If there are signs of obvious disintegration on the outside of your furnace, it’s important to get it taken care of before it becomes a serious hazard.
  7. Noisy: You might turn up the volume to drown out the odd noises coming from your car’s engine (although we hope you don’t!), but when you’re faced with a noisy furnace, it’s not so easy to ignore. Rattling, humming, popping or screeching noises are not just annoying, they’re also signs of potential failure or issue in need of repair.

Simple Furnace Repairs

If you’re trying to decide whether to repair or replace your furnace, there are some easy repairs you can probably do yourself. But remember, if you’re unsure, it’s best not to bite off more than you can chew and call a professional to fix your unit instead.

  • No heat: The simplest solution here is checking your thermostat. You might need to change out the batteries for it to work again. You may also need to check the breaker to see if a switch was tripped.
  • Not enough heat: This might be due to a clogged filter. In most cases, you can simply replace the filter yourself.
  • Dust build-up: It’s important not to crowd your furnace with poorly-placed furniture or objects. Not only can this be a dangerous hazard, but it can also encourage dust that clogs air filters prematurely.
  • Yellow flames: The flames in your furnace should be blue and even, if they’re yellow, your burners are likely dirty. Your burners should be cleaned on an annual basis or replaced if they’re in a bad condition.
  • Rapid cycling: If your furnace is turning on and off too quickly, this may mean there’s a filter issue. Try replacing it. But if that doesn’t fix the problem, it’s time to call in the experts.
  • Noise: Sometimes, excessive furnace noise can be due to your ductwork. Try insulating them to see if that stops the issue.
  • Smelling gas: Be careful, this could indicate a gas leak. If it’s a strong smell, it’s advised that you leave your home immediately and contact your utility company to resolve this issue.

What are the Benefits of Replacing a Furnace?

If you invest in a high-efficiency furnace, you may pay more upfront for a high-end model. However, the lifetime savings of these units can be between $1, 241 and $1, 443. Lifetime savings simply refers to the savings you’ll enjoy over the unit’s entire operational years. These savings are in contrast to what you’re saving on a monthly or yearly basis and might give you a better idea of whether or not replacing your furnace is worth it.

Besides just the savings, you may also see a reduction in your energy bills, be able to enjoy a more comfortable home temperature, and have peace-of-mind when it comes to the health and safety of your home.

You can expect a brand new furnace to last between 15-30 years. Its lifespan will be affected by the model you choose, how well it’s maintained, and other variables like your local climate.

How to Choose a New Furnace

According to Energy.gov, older furnace models have efficiency ranges of 56%-70% while more modern units can achieve much higher efficiency rates of up to 98.5%. The efficiency of your furnace refers to how well it converts its fuel into heat. For example, a gas furnace that is 90% efficient means that 90% of the gas used for fuel is directly converted into heat. As a result of using fuel more efficiently, a furnace upgrade can reduce your utility bills and your furnace’s pollution emissions by half.

The first step before investing in a new furnace unit is taking the whole-house approach. Instead of isolating your furnace as the culprit of your energy woes, look at the entire house as an integrated “energy whole”. After all, it doesn’t matter if you have the most efficient furnace in the world if you have air leaks, ductwork issues, poor insulation, missing air sealings, or a  thermostat in need of repair.

However, if you do install all the proper equipment and upgrade using the whole-house approach, you can save around 5-30% total on your energy bill.

Furnace replacement costs

Before we jump into the price of a furnace replacement, it’s important to note what adds to your total furnace cost. Your cost will vary based on the efficiency of the model you choose, the brand, warranties, and location. If you’d like a customized price for your home heating project, you can find a Ygrene contractor here to get a personalized estimate.

Another major factor that will affect the cost of the furnace is the type of furnace you choose. There are three main types as we mentioned in the introduction: electric, gas, and oil.

  • Electric: Electric furnaces use electric heating elements to create heat that is transferred to the air. They’re typically more inexpensive and cheaper up front in terms of cost but the least efficient.
  • Gas: This is the most common type of furnace in homes today. It works by leveraging hot gas that heats the air while fans circulate the hot air through your ductwork.
  • Oil: In an oil furnace, oil is converted into heat. These are a little less efficient than gas furnaces. You’ll find oil furnaces more in the northeastern areas of the U.S.

Price (both cost and installation) averages:

  • Electric furnace
    • High efficiency: about $4, 410
    • Standard efficiency: about $1, 925
  • Gas furnace
    • High efficiency: about $4, 625
    • Standard efficiency: about $2, 100
  • Oil furnace
    • High efficiency: about $6, 480
    • Standard efficiency: about $2, 885

Should I Also Replace My HVAC?

Your furnace is just one part of your HVAC system. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and your furnace, of course, makes up the “heating” part of your HVAC system. Sometimes, it’s worth it to overhaul your entire heating and cooling (HVAC) system. But before you make the commitment to replacing your entire system, you should consider getting an energy audit to see where energy leaks are occurring within your home. Your audit might even be subsidized by your utility company or local governing body depending on your residential area.

If the AC unit and ductwork are also worse for wear like your furnace, it might be a good time to consider investing in a new system. Plus, it may add to your overall property value and lower your carbon footprint at the same time. It’s a win-win situation for the environment and you and your family.

While the cost to replace a full HVAC system can be up to $10, 000 to $14, 000, it’s a purchase that will increase your quality of life, a priceless feature that isn’t necessarily reflected in the cold, hard numbers.

Stay Warm and Comfortable This Winter

If you’re ready to invest in a new furnace but you’re reconsidering because of cost, Ygrene can help. With PACE financing, you can get a new furnace that saves you money and more importantly, keeps you and your family comfortable. Don’t grit your teeth through another winter dealing with yet another cold spot in your home, it’s time to upgrade to a healthier, modern unit.

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