We get asked a lot, “When do I know I need to replace the heating system?” This question doesn’t have one answer because there is no exact science to the life expectancy of a heating system. Several factors go into the longevity of a system. The quality of the unit, the quality of the parts used to repair it over the years, how much it is used, and how regularly it has been serviced all play a role in how long a system will last. However, if your system is over 15 years old, it’s time to start planning for a replacement.
While most heating systems can last closer to 20 years, the reason we say start to plan at 15 years is just that – so you can plan. Heating systems are one of the biggest investments we make in our homes and the installation of a new one can be disruptive. When you have a few years to plan for it you can research what the best system and manufacturer is for you, where and how you want it installed, and you can start saving for this pricey home improvement.
There are some signs that your heating system is in need of attention. When that attention becomes too costly, then it’s time to consider a replacement. As soon as you suspect something might be wrong, call in a heating professional immediately. There are many dangers to a heating system not operating properly.
How do you know if you should be concerned? When do you need to consider replacing your heating system versus having repairs done? Here are some signs that your system is on its way out:
When a heating system is working properly, it should run with minimal noise. Changes in the noises it makes can come from a variety of sources including build up or blockage in the air exchangers, a broken component, or loose exhaust equipment. Because new and worsening noises from your heating system can indicate very serious issues, you should have a professional look at it as soon as possible if this occurs.
Older heating systems don’t operate as efficiently, so they use more fuel. An inefficient system also makes the unit work harder to produce heat, which uses more fuel. If you notice an increase in your heat energy costs, you may need a repair or an upgrade to a new system.
Healthy heating systems should only run when they are needed based on the set temperature. Once your home reaches the desired temperature on the thermostat, the system should stop blowing or cycling. If your system seems to be running constantly, it is a sign of the need for a cleaning, an issue with the compressor, or perhaps a worn out thermostat. Too much cycling can also be attributed to a unit that is too small for the square footage it needs to cover.
When a system is in good operating condition and sized properly for the building, the set temperature should keep you comfortable. If you find you are constantly adjusting the thermostat, your system may need a repair or your thermostat may need to be replaced.
Just like an old car, there is a point where it is no longer feasible to spend money on system repairs. Certainly, there will be some repairs as a system ages, but if you find you are needing to have it fixed more and more over the last couple of years, it’s probably on its way out.
If the cost of the repairs is nearing 50% of the cost of a new heating system, you should replace it. An exception to that rule would be if your heating system is older than 20 years, the cost of the repair should be less than 15% of the replacement cost to justify the repair. Chances are a heating system more than 20 years old will begin to need more frequent repairs and it’s simply not worth putting the money into a system that old and inefficient.
Unless you use zoned heating settings, the temperature from room to room should stay fairly consistent. While north facing rooms or sunny rooms can feel very different than the rest of the house, dramatic shifts shouldn’t happen. If you notice major changes when you walk through your house, your heating system and/or ductwork or registers may need cleaning or repairs. Your system could also be undersized for your house.
Many people don’t realize the impact that heating systems have on indoor air quality. If you have a lot of dust blowing through your house when the furnace is running, or soot collecting inside your home, your heating system is to blame. A thorough professional cleaning may do the trick. Always replace the filters monthly during the heating system to reduce the particles allowed to spread through your house.
Once a heating system passes the 15 year mark, it’s getting time to consider a replacement system. Older systems are inefficient which increases your heating costs. More things will begin to break down which will increase your repair costs. While you may not need to replace the system right away, using this as a benchmark for looking into replacement options gives you time to plan and save for a new system, instead of being caught off-guard with an emergency replacement (and no heat).
If you think you need a new heating system, consult a heating professional. A new system will give you a substantial energy cost savings and you’ll be a lot more comfort in your home. Today’s technology in heating systems are designed to provide more even heating, lower operational costs, and with more versatility in installation options..
If you notice any of the warning signs in this article, schedule an inspection with us as soon as possible. It is always best to catch things before they become emergencies. At Gelinas HVAC, we want to make sure your heating system is working properly, running as efficiently as possible, and is safe for you and your family!