Whether you live in a climate with freezing cold winters, scorching hot summers, or some combination of both, a properly functioning HVAC system is the key to staying comfortable in your home year-round. In Virginia, our summers are generally pretty temperate; however, with 95 days per year of below-freezing temperatures, a well-oiled furnace can be the difference between cozy nights in and extreme discomfort during the winter months.
Scheduling regular maintenance with a licensed heating specialist is extremely important for maintaining the health and functionality of your furnace. An expert like this can quickly and easily change your filter, oil any moving parts creating too much friction, and perform the necessary repairs to keep your furnace working in excellent shape.
Furnace Repair vs. Furnace Replacement: How to Tell When It’s Time
A yearly or bi-yearly furnace tune-up will certainly extend the lifespan of your furnace when compared to a unit that has never been serviced or is irregularly serviced. For every furnace unit, however, the day will come when an entire replacement makes more financial and realistic sense than another round of repairs.
Not sure what it looks like when your furnace is ready for a replacement? Here are a few of the signs:
If you’re noticing decreased functionality with your furnace, you may want to check when the furnace was installed. The typical life expectancy of the average furnace unit is 15-20 years. If you’ve made sure that regular tune-ups have been carried out since your furnace’s original installation, you may be able to make it to 20 years of use, but somewhere between 15 and 18 years is more likely.
Even if you’ve had periodic maintenance on your system, it may simply be too outdated to warrant continuous repairs and tune-ups. Most older furnaces have a 56-70% annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE. This isn’t very fuel-efficient compared to the newer models of today, which boast between 90 and 98.5% AFUE. This means that up to 98.5% of the energy generated by your furnace becomes heated air dispersed throughout your home, the remaining percentage being air that escapes out the chimney or other structural gas escape.
Though the quality of ductwork can also play a role in your furnace’s AFUE, a more fuel-efficient model will still deliver a much higher percentage of properly heated air to your home than an older, less efficient unit. If your furnace is approaching the 15-year mark or you’re unsure when your furnace was originally installed, call in a heating specialist to help you determine whether or not a new furnace installation is the right move for you.
#2: Frequent Repairs and Poor Performance
Sometimes, it can seem like an appliance is breaking down even more often than it’s working. If your furnace is one of these, you’re probably fed up with suffering a cold house between every repair appointment, only for the unit to break down again weeks or even days after its most recent repair. Not only is this cycle tiring, but it can also get expensive depending on the repairs being done.
If your furnace isn’t taking to repairs very well, there’s probably a reason for it. Old or significantly damaged furnaces are often simply beyond the point of repair, and the money you’re spending on constant fixes could be put toward a new, energy-efficient furnace that could last you up to 20 years with regular maintenance.
Ask your HVAC technician if the level of repairs your furnace is receiving is normal and expected, or if your money could be better spent on a replacement.
Maybe you haven’t received a furnace repair in a while, but you suspect that your furnace might be in need of one, or at least a regular tune-up. It can be pretty easy to tell when a furnace isn’t functioning properly, especially during the colder months. Some of the most common signs of poor furnace performance include:
- Uneven heating and cold spots
- Cold air coming through the vents
- Decreased response to thermostat changes
- Heated air is lukewarm at best
- Dust and other debris are coming from the vents
Your furnace’s job is to keep you and your family warm and comfortable by properly ventilating the outside air it takes in before heating and redispersing it throughout your home. If your unit is struggling to provide the amount and warmth of air it used to or is even spreading unventilated air throughout your home, it’s definitely time to have your furnace checked.
Though many of these functionality issues can be fixed by a repair, your furnace may be too old to properly take to a repair or there may be enough malfunctions built up that an entirely new furnace is cheaper than the cost of repair. A heating expert will be able to diagnose all of your furnace’s distinct problems and create a plan of action to either repair the malfunctioning parts or replace the unit with a newer model.
#3: Spiked Energy Bills
Paying close attention to your energy bills is a great way to know whether or not your HVAC appliances are functioning properly, as a malfunctioning unit will often rack up much higher costs than one that is working fine for the same amount of use.
This is due to the fact that a furnace with a dirty filter, a broken part, or some other malfunction will have to struggle to provide the temperature and forcefulness of air that you are asking for with your thermostat settings. This increased effort will cause the spike that you notice in your heating bill.
Though a malfunctioning furnace is often the catalyst for a strangely high energy bill, there can be other factors at play. Make sure that all of your windows and doors are shut tightly when the furnace is in use. Additionally, check your walls, windows, ceilings, and your attic space in particular for proper insulation. Warm air rises, and if your attic or roof has a hole, crack, or another breach, you may be wasting a great deal of money and warm air every time your power up your furnace.
Speak with a licensed HVAC technician to find out if the issues causing your furnace to work excessively hard are fixable with a series of repairs, or if an entire furnace replacement is the best route to take.
#4: Outer Damage and Strange Noises
Typically, internal damage such as a blown motor on your furnace’s blower, excessive friction on a moving part, or an improperly colored pilot light can be fixed with a repair whether the damage is minor or an entire part needs to be replaced.
However, your furnace may be experiencing a different kind of damage that wasn’t necessarily caused by a malfunction of interior parts, especially if your furnace is on the older side. Cracks and rust on your furnace’s exterior can be caused by a variety of factors, usually having to do with where the unit is kept and what other appliances or objects come in contact with it.
Make sure to perform visual inspections of your furnace often. External damage can sometimes be more difficult to repair than internal damage, and you may be in need of a replacement furnace altogether if superficial damages are present.
Whether or not any cracks or rust are present, if you notice odd noises coming from your furnace, it’s almost surely a sign that something isn’t working right. The majority of furnaces emit a low level of noise when in use, just like most appliances. However, you will be able to tell relatively easily if the noises coming from your furnace are normal sounds of interior parts working or the sounds of a malfunction.
Some of the common descriptors that homeowners will use to describe the strange noises being emitted by their furnaces include:
These sounds could be signifying a variety of internal issues including a damaged or cracked belt, a malfunctioning gas valve, dirty or dusty burners, and more.
Many heating specialists agree that if your furnace is making odd noises, the unit is most likely on its last legs. Make sure to schedule an appointment with an HVAC expert as soon as you notice these noises; not only could it mean that your home will soon be without the hot air, it could also be hazardous to your home’s safety.
Furnace Install: The Perks of a Brand-New Furnace
Installing a new appliance of any kind can seem like a hassle for homeowners. However, when you invest in a new furnace, you are being guaranteed a newer and more energy-efficient model than your previous unit as well as nearly two decades to come of improved home heating, provided that you schedule a regular furnace tune-up.
You can also look forward to decreased energy bills, improved air quality in your home, and effortlessly comfortable winter.
Not sure whether a furnace replacement is in the cards for you this year? Schedule a furnace tune-up appointment with one of our efficient, professional heating specialists at Energy Pro for a full analysis of your unit, new furnace install, furnace repair, and much more.