Should I replace my Central Heating?

A quality central heating system is key to any modern American household. A comfortable and healthy home requires a well maintained furnace to keep the cold nights comfy and chilly winters bearable. Such systems are fairly complex and while they are reliable for long periods of time it is a good idea to check on your furnaces health before winter comes.

It is important to know the 8 warning signs that your furnace may need replacing. It is especially important not to wait until a crisis occurs. A cold night in January, with the furnace faltering or failed, is not the time to assess your heating system. Do it now.

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There are specific signs you can look for in your furnace that indicate it may be time for an upgrade:

Age:

The easiest sign you may need a new furnace is the age of your current system. The national average age for home furnaces is 15 years. Try not to wait until an emergency happens to shop around. You likely won’t be worrying about price or efficiency when its below freezing outside and your family is without heat.

Gas or Electric bills are rising:

Rising prices for heating commodities is not the only reason you may notice your heating bills increasing over time. Heating systems lose their efficiency as they age, and this is especially true for old houses. Newer energy efficient furnaces and boilers are often 15% more efficient than traditional home heating solutions.

Noise:

If you notice banging, popping, rattling, or squealing noises coming from your basement or out of your air vents, this could be a sign of a problem with your heating system. You may have an undersized air duct remnant of an even older furnace or a problem with your heating coils. If you hear any of these noises, call a technician as soon as possible before the annoying sounds become a more expensive problem.

Once you have decided that your furnace or boiler has one of these problems, you can move on to deciding whether to repair or replace it.

Depending on the size of your house and the brand of new equipment you choose, a new hot-air furnace typically costs $1,500 to $4,000, while a boiler for a hot-water system might run $4,000 to $8,000. As a general guideline, consider replacement if the equipment is beyond three-quarters of its life expectancy and repairs will cost more than a third of replacement, suggests Larry Howald of Broad Ripple Heating and Air Conditioning in Indianapolis. In other words, it’s probably not worth spending $700 to repair a 15-year-old furnace you could replace for $2,000.

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Lack of moisture:

Anyone who suffers from allergies knows the struggle of dealing with pollen in the spring and summer, and older heating systems often won’t clean the air, bringing in all kinds of allergens and dust that will irritate you.

“Old furnaces often lack the ability to moisturize and clean the air in your home. Your house air may feel stuffy or stale. Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies to airborne dust, mold, pollen, viruses or dander? Or does anyone suffer from dry nose, dry throat, or dry skin?”

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Modern systems will moisture the air to maintain a comfortable humidity level and clean out most particles so you only get clean, warm air.

Carbon monoxide leaks:

Carbon monoxide leaks are most common in older furnaces that burn oil and gas. A crack in the heat exchanger, the metal wall that separates the air flowing through your home from the burning gas or oil that is heating it, can allow poisonous monoxide gas to seep into your home. If you or someone else experience frequent headaches, a burning sensation in the eyes or nose, or nausea, open a window immediately and call a technician.

Even if your furnace is still in working condition it may be worth considering a newer set-up. Repairing your furnace will only get more expensive as it ages, and modern systems usually have additional features you might now even know you want. When considering whether to upgrade:

“you need to weigh three factors: your furnace efficiency, the cost of fuel, and the “heating load” of your house—that’s the amount of energy required to maintain a steady 65-degree temperature indoors.”

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For example, electric heating is very efficient but has the highest fuel cost. This makes it good for small spaces that can be heated quickly and have their temperature maintained, like a small apartment or basement, but poor choices for large spaces that need constant heating to stay warm, like a home or office.

Gas and oil furnaces are much better choices for large spaces and while they lost some efficiency, their lower fuel cost to heat ratio makes them better in the long run. When choosing between a boiler or a furnace, consider your “heating load” again. According to energy.gov, boilers are better at “zone heating” which is when you only want to heat parts of your house instead of all rooms equally. This is useful if you have a large home but do not use every room daily. However, furnaces are cheaper to purchase and run so if zone heating is not important to you a furnace might be the better option.

Even if your home is free from all the problems described above, it may be worth shopping around for a new heater. Even a well maintained and designed furnaces from a decade ago may be out-classed by modern variants. Most new gas, electric, and oil heating solutions have over 95% efficiency. If you have a furnace or boiler that is more than a decade old, it is likely your system is not that efficient.

According to energy.gov, the average old, low efficiency heating system is only 56%-70% efficient. The average American spends $700 – $1700 on heating, which means that $308-$748 of that cost is being wasted! Even a small increase in efficiency when dealing with big numbers like these can save you money, so it may be worth looking into a new furnace, boiler, or heat pump.

Statistics from this Article are from Energy.gov