Angie's List: Fix or replace old furnace?

Are you debating whether you need to replace your furnace?

Becky Schooley had to replace her 10-year-old unit after it went out earlier this year.

“The company that installed the existing unit had put in one that was too large for our home and so I think that might have caused the early demise of the unit or may have contributed to that,” Becky Schooley explained.

Lifespan 20 Years Or Less

HVAC Contractor Kris Conover says, “The average life of a heating and cooling system is somewhere between 12 to 18 years. So, obviously as you get older things start to break down in your body, the same thing happens with heating and cooling equipment.”

Our partners at the consumer guide Angie’s List say there are warning signs that your furnace may need replacing.

Warning Signs You Need New Furnace

  •        Are your utility bills going up? Furnaces often lose their efficiency as they get older.
  •        Is your furnace breaking down more often, resulting in costly repairs?
  •        Are you always adjusting the thermostat to make your home more comfortable? Can the system keep up?
  •        Does it require a new air handler? That can cost almost as much as a whole new furnace.

If it’s time to replace your furnace, there are some things you should consider before buying.

Remember, bigger is not always better. Your unit should be correctly sized to operate properly and efficiently. And how much do you want to spend? As the efficiency rating goes up, so does the cost.

“Every system has an evaluation of how efficient it is. AFUE is Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. So if a furnace is rated on that. So, for instance a 95 percent, or 95 percent AFUE furnace, it’s using 95 BTU’s per hundred BTU’s put in. To put it in another term, if you’re spending a dollar on heating, it’s providing you 95 cents of output. Very, very efficient ... one of the most efficient furnaces you could possibly get would be a 95 percent AFUE,” Conover said.

What To Ask About

Buying a new furnace is a large investment in your home. It’s an appliance that is going to last for many, many years so you want to be sure you find a company that is going to stand behind their installation. You should expect them to come out and give you an assessment of your furnace on-site. Also, they’ll check your ductwork as well to make sure it’s adequate.

Ask prospective companies what specific manufacturers or equipment brands they carry. Contractors should hold training certifications with the manufacturers of the equipment they carry.

Angie Hicks recommends, “When upgrading you furnace if you have the funds to also upgrade your air conditioner you can actually save some money because the installation crew is already on site. Also a lot of the manufacturer offer discounts when you bundle the two products.”

Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews , asked highly rated HVAC contractors about upgrading your furnace.

Buying a New Furnace: Factors to Consider:

· Sizing: Bigger is not always better. Your unit should be correctly sized to operate properly and efficiently. Your contractor must follow industry-leading practices for sizing the furnace, called the Manual J method, which is a heat loss/heat gain calculation, before recommending a unit.

· Understanding energy efficiency: The efficiency rating for your heating systems helps to determine how much it will cost you to heat your home. The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, or AFUE, tells you how much heat the furnace will produce compared to the amount of energy required to produce the heat. If a furnace is rated at 85 percent AFUE, 15 percent of the energy used is lost, and 85 percent actually becomes heat. The Federal Trade Commission requires manufacturers to include AFUE ratings on all new furnaces. Unfortunately, older systems may not have a rating, or the information may have been removed.

· How much? Standard furnaces with basic features cost the least. You should expect to pay at least $1,700 or as much as $4,000. As the efficiency rating goes up, so does the cost. High-efficiency gas furnaces rated 90 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) or higher can run around $2,500 to $6,000. The highest-efficiency gas furnaces rated 98 AFUE that employ advanced features like a modulating gas valve and variable-speed air handler will run on the high end of the price range.

As always, don't waste your money.


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