One of the constant stresses associated with owning a furnace is worrying about when you’re going to need an expensive replacement. You can wait until there’s a catastrophic failure, and then you’re forced into it. On the other hand, you can also learn the signs that allow you a little more planning. Here are the signs to watch for so that you know when to plan your next furnace replacement.
It’s Old Enough to Enroll In College
The average natural gas forced air furnace has an expected service life of 15 to 20 years when properly maintained. That means if your furnace is old enough to enroll in college, it may be time to consider a replacement.
As your furnace ages, it naturally loses some of its efficiency due to collected contaminants and wearing components. This also means you’ll have more repairs as components wear out with every passing year.
Once your system surpasses the 15-year mark, start making the plan for when you’ll have a replacement. This allows you to plan and budget for the expense before you have some catastrophic failure.
Different Temperatures Throughout Your Home
As your system runs, it should heat your home relatively evenly, without significant differences from one room to the next. However, as your system loses efficiency, it will eventually inhibit even heat distribution.
You may notice this difference in the furthest places away from your furnace at first, and then slowly, it’ll creep closer. If you let your furnace get old enough, you may notice it doesn’t feel like there’s much heat coming out anywhere in your home. By the time you have significant inconsistencies throughout your home, you’ll probably have other symptoms.
It’s Making Unusual Noises
Your system should run nearly silently, aside from the sound of your circulating fan. If you notice your system is making unusual sounds, it may indicate problems warranting a new unit.
First, listen for rattling sounds, which may mean there’s something loose in your system. Most rattles can be avoided with routine maintenance when your tech tightens down all mounting bolts and screws.
You may also notice a loud humming sound, which is an indication of an electrical problem in your unit. This can be traced back to any number of electrical components internal to the furnace, including the blower motor. A technician will easily identify where the sound is originating.
As your circuiting and inducing fan motors age, they may emit a screeching sound. If your furnace is equipped with a fan belt, it may be loose. More likely, the bearings in your motor are wearing, and you’ll need a replacement motor. Lubricating these bearings is part of routine maintenance for many of these motors and will help prevent squealing and screeching.
You’ve Slacked on Maintenance
Just about every mechanical system needs regular maintenance to keep it operating effectively. Your furnace is no different and should have maintenance every year, ideally in the fall.
However, it’s easy to forget to schedule your maintenance with all the fall preparation for the winter. But doing so may significantly cut your furnace’s useful service life.
During professional maintenance, a technician cleans and tightens everything in your system to ensure it’s working at its optimal efficiency. When things get loose or airflow restrictions form, your system experiences additional strain. Over time, that strain causes each part to fail prematurely, slowly eroding your entire system’s service life.
Your Utility Bills Keep Going Up
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your utility bills and compare your consumption each month to the prior year. If you notice there is a rise in your consumption every month compared to the year prior, you’ve got a problem.
With your furnace, the common cause for this is simply the natural reduction in efficiency. If you have routine maintenance on your system, there should be little change each year. A significant difference means there is a major problem with either transferring heat or getting it out into your home.
By the time you notice this difference in your fuel consumption due to age, you will likely also experience increased repairs and other symptoms. When these symptoms compound, it signals your unit may be on its last legs.
The Repairs Are More Than Your Unit’s Value
Your furnace will likely need some repairs before it reaches the end of its service life. However, like anything mechanical, the cost of repairs will eventually outweigh the value of your system. Fortunately, there’s a simple math equation that will help you determine if the repair costs warrant a system replacement.
First, divide the cost of your repair by 100. So if you need a new heat exchanger, which may cost $1,200, this would give you 12. Now, add the age of your system to that number. If your furnace is 7 years old, you would add 12+7, which gives you 19.
Once this sum exceeds 20, it’s time to consider a replacement system. If your furnace needs multiple repairs due to aging parts, you will quickly achieve this threshold.
Your System Isn’t Cycling Properly
When running optimally, your furnace will run for a period of time, then shut off. The normal cycle length is generally 10 to 15 minutes, and your system should run two or three cycles per hour.
When there’s a problem with your system, you may have longer or shorter cycles. Longer cycles indicate your thermostat isn’t achieving the desired temperature on time. This could be a simple airflow restriction like a clogged air filter but also indicate bigger problems with your heat exchanger.
Shorter cycles indicate a problem where the furnace is heating up too quickly, forcing it to shut down. It then runs more cycles rapidly, increasing the operational strain your system experiences.
Your system may run more cycles during extreme weather, so keep an eye on weather patterns as a variable. However, if you notice your system running either exceptionally long or short cycles, call for an inspection. Combined with age and other symptoms, it may indicate you need a new system.
Low Airflow Through Your Vents
Finally, keep an eye on the amount of air flowing from your vents. You don’t need special equipment to do this, but rather, just stand in front of your vents with bare feet. If you can barely feel the air coming from it, you have a problem that may need attention.
A clogged air filter may cause this airflow reduction, so check there first. However, if your circulating fan motor is nearing the end of its life, it may not spin as quickly. This will reduce the volume of air coming from your vents until it eventually fails to produce any spin.
Since 1983, Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning has been a sought-after name for HVAC services around Jamesville. Our friendly and trusted technicians provide heating and air conditioning installation, maintenance, and repairs along with indoor air quality and water heater services. Call to schedule a consultation with one of our furnace experts today.