To Repair or Replace, An Owner's Dilemma

To Repair Or Replace, An Owners Dilemma

While there are no set rules, deciding whether to repair your current furnace or boiler or upgrade to a more efficient model, is not an easy choice, and every situation is unique.

Here are a few scenarios to help you decide whether you should repair your system or replace it entirely:

1. Your furnace seems less effective

Have you noticed that some rooms in your house are warmer than others? Do you feel like you need to run back and forth adjusting the thermostat to stay comfortable in any given area? Does the air feel muggy or humid? If so, these might be signs that your furnace is losing its effectiveness.

2. Your furnace is over 15 years old

Unfortunately, even the highest quality heating systems don't last forever. A furnace should last 15-30 years before you'll need to replace it. Of course, this varies by brand, furnace quality and other factors.

A heater will generally start to show increased signs of wear that will lead to more frequent and costly repairs during this timeframe. If your furnace has been serviced recently and continues to need costly repairs, it’s a sign that your system is not functioning properly. Similar to a car with high mileage, an old furnace may run okay with minor repairs but won't be able to adequately keep up with your needs as efficiently as a replacement.

For easy reference, use the following to judge whether to replace your furnace due to age:

  • Repair: If the system is less than 15 years old, it's often best to have it serviced rather than install a new one.
  • Replace: Any system over 15 years old is prone to frequent and expensive repairs and may need to be replaced.

3. Your furnace is making strange noises

Nearly all furnaces make noise when turned on or off, but if yours is making unexpected noises such as rattling, popping, screeching or humming; you should schedule a service call. Noises could stem from various issues such as unsecured ductwork, an unbalanced motor, motor failure or deteriorating parts.

4. Your heating bill is increasing

Heating costs fluctuate year to year due to changes in weather patterns and supply and demand. But while this can explain some variation in your heating bill, you should still be alert to unusual spikes from month to month that coincide with your furnace use.

Compare the cost of heating bills from the most recent heating season with bills from previous years. If you notice a significant difference in recent heating statements, your furnace is likely consuming too much energy. And if you're continuing to use your system economically and can't account for this increase, it's time to schedule a furnace/boiler tune-up.

5. Your furnace is emitting carbon monoxide

Any system that could potentially expose you and your family to carbon monoxide needs to be replaced - not repaired - as soon as possible. A furnace with a cracked combustion chamber allows carbon monoxide to leak into your home and should always be replaced immediately.

Some signs that your furnace may be emitting carbon monoxide include:

  • Yellow furnace burner flame instead of blue
  • Excess moisture on windows, walls and other surfaces
  • Rusting on pipes
  • Streaks of soot around the furnace
  • Absence of upward draft in the chimney
  • Feelings of nausea, disorientation, headaches and other flu-like symptoms.

If you notice any of these symptoms, evacuate your home immediately, call the fire department, notify your utility company to turn off your gas and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Afterward, contact your heating professional to get your furnace replaced.

6. The cost of a repair is over half the cost of a replacement

Experts recommend replacing your furnace when repair costs exceed 50% of the cost of a replacement as a general rule. And for older heating systems that have exceeded 75% of their life expectancy, you should consider purchasing a new furnace once repair costs exceed one-third of the replacement cost.

7. You're thinking about selling your home

Homebuyers look for the best possible investment when considering their options and often make their decision based on a property's number of favorable features. Furnaces are the most common space heating option in the U.S., which makes a functioning, efficient furnace an indispensable asset.

An out-of-date heating system that has reached the end of its life expectancy will likely need to be replaced during the inspection process. At best, failure to replace an old system could cause buyers to ask you for a reduced asking price, and at worst, it could keep potential buyers from being able to make an offer on your home altogether.

8. You are retiring soon

If you're nearing retirement, a new furnace can be a beneficial investment. When you replace your old heating system as you approach retirement, you can enjoy the comfort, efficiency and cost savings of your new furnace for years to come without worrying about system failure, and you may never have to replace your system again.

Not only does an efficient furnace allow you to be more comfortable in your home, but a functioning heat source also becomes critical to your health as you age.

One of the hardest parts of repairing your furnace is finding an expert you can trust. If you own a home in Greater Grand Rapids, give us a call at Lake Michigan Mechanical, where integrity matters and trust is paramount.

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