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Upgrading your furnace

Upgrading your furnace involves a hefty financial commitment, and many homeowners put it off until it has a catastrophic breakdown, usually when they need it the most. However, planning its replacement ahead of time avoids the discomfort of a cold house and a quick decision. When making this decision there are four things to consider as part of the decision-making process: its age, condition and safe operation.


  • Age. Furnaces have a useful life ranging from 12 to 15 years. If you don’t know how old yours is, look inside the blower compartment and look for the serial number and the manufacturer’s name. You can contact them to learn the year the system was made.


  • Efficiency. Furnace energy efficiency is rated by how much of the fuel they consume that’s used directly for heating homes. You can probably find its annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating inside the blower compartment near its serial number. It should be expressed as a whole number that’s actually a percentage. A furnace that has an AFUE of 80 utilizes 80 percent of the fuel it consumes to heat a home, wasting 20 percent up the chimney. Over time, that efficiency will drop due to wear. By upgrading your furnace with a unit that has a higher AFUE, you’ll start saving money on heating bills immediately. New furnaces are available that reach nearly 99 percent efficiency.


  • Repairs. If you’ve spent or are facing repair costs that equal 40 percent of the cost of a new system, it’s a better option to replace the system.


  • Safety. Since combustion furnaces use fuel to heat your home, safety is a primary consideration and one of the most important reasons to have the system serviced annually by an HVAC professional. As the fuel burns, it heats a metal part called the heat exchanger. Over time this part can crack and emit carbon monoxide (CO) into your home. Operating a furnace in this condition is dangerous, and unless it’s under a full warranty, it makes more financial sense to replace it rather than repair it.


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