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When Should I Replace My Furnace With a More Energy Efficient One?

Posted by Michael Kamps on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 @ 04:46 PM

At H&H Plumbing & Heating we get asked this questions all the time by homeowners, "when is the best time to replace my furnace?

Is there a rule of thumb? On the one hand, the last thing we want is to sell you a new system if it doesn't make sense, but on the other hand, we certainly would like to help you avoid the WORST time to buy a RuleofThumbreplacement furnace; when it's the middle of Winter when you have NO HEAT! We see it all the time, the day before it quit working was just like today when it is working.
We are always asked, "OK, so when is the right time to replace a furnace or for that matter a whole system?" There's no real simple answer, but there are categories your situation fits into. You may hear radio ads that say, "Now is the time to buy!"; but is that really true that now is the right time for you to buy? Most homeowners today, don't respond to things like that or just tune them out. We believe you want to make a well informed decision which is a good fit for you.

The most common concerns or reasons homeowners have that get them doing research are: age of your system, high energy bills or some weird noises or strange smells.

"Unplanned" vs. "Planned".
Hopefully, you're not in the No-Heat-I'll-freeze-tonight emergency - - obviously, that would be the toughest time to make a complex decision that you live with for 15-20 years; that's stress you don't need!! We like to compare it to deciding to replace your roof when it's leaking and staining your ceiling, furniture, or carpeting. OK, maybe it's not that bad, but we think you get the point.

Here's how that usually works, if your HVAC system fails in the middle of winter, you'll be feeling pressed to make a quick decision, and be tempted to just choose any contractor who could install a new unit fastest; it’s also tempting to spend as little as possible on new equipment if you just want to get the heating back on. Unfortunately that would be a missed opportunity.

Planned:
When homeowners plan for replacement they have the opportunity to evaluate solutions to other problems; more of a systems approach. You have time to research and evaluate newer technologies and other options. Every homeowner has different motivating factors that drive their decisions, things like:

  • it's getting up there in age,
  • utility bills are high, 
  • having peace of mind, 
  • safety conscious, 
  • concern for the environment, 
  • energy-efficiency, 
  • not happy with the comfort level, 
  • concerned about clean indoor air and a safer environment.

You may be interested in Geothermal as an option. The point is, it's better to have the necessary time to make a 20 year decision with the best information, right?

Before you decide what to do, one of the best ways to help you evaluate is to have a member of our service team conduct a Furnace Tune-Up.
Let's first determine how to extend the life of your current system. We're happy to keep you operational, but you may see us more frequently. There are plenty of parts that can go bad or fail.

The 'Rule of Thumb' -- Cost vs. Age Guideline Chart - This chart represents the decision whether to repair or replace.
For example, let's say your furnace is 12 years old and you need a blower motor replaced at a cost of about $350, it may be time to seriously consider replacement. It boils down to personal preference. Another way of saying it is, "when is a good time to buy a car?" Some people always want the newest, most advanced, newer smelling auto. (In HVAC terms that means, energy-efficient, environmental or social responsibility conscious, and having peace of mind.) Others think more cost effective and safety conscious. I'll have regular maintenance until I start dumping money into major repairs. (I'll have regular furnace or A/C tune-ups). The last is drive it 'till it breaks.

Another resource is EnergyStar.

Remember this, many homeowners think that buying an energy efficient furnace or air-conditioner will automatically reduce my energy bill.
Not necessarily true. Even the highest efficiency-rated heaters and air conditioners can cost you more money to operate if they are improperly sized or installed. According to the Department of Energy, shoddy installation and improper sized equipment can waste as much as one-third of your energy consumption. This is true to some extent, but you won't realize all the possible savings if the equipment is not sized or installed properly. Studies have shown that typical air conditioner and duct systems are improperly installed, wasting 1/3 or more of the energy used by the air conditioner. New and replacement equipment (and ducts) need to be properly designed and installed to realize all the possible savings.

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Tags: HVAC Systems, Replacement, Furnace, Best Value