When you’re faced with a sizable repair bill, you may be wondering if spending money on the repair is worth it. At a certain point, if you’re spending money, it may make more sense to invest in a new furnace.
Unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. There are several factors you’ll want to weigh in. Luckily there’s a good rule of thumb to help guide you: once the cost of repairs adds up to 50% of a new furnace purchase, definitely go for the upgrade.
For those of you who may be thinking, “that helps, but I need more information” here are some things to take into account when making your decision.
1. How Old is Your Furnace?
Our hard-working furnaces can be expected to last about 15 years, perhaps more if they were correctly maintained. If your furnace is only a few years old, find out if the repair is covered under warranty – this will depend on the manufacturer, and it should be in your manual or other purchase paperwork.
If a furnace is “middle aged” – around 6 or 7 years – replacing is an option if you’re faced with a very large repair bill, but not if it’s only a few hundred dollars.
Once the furnace is over 10 years old, start considering replacement at a lower threshold. This chart should help simplify things:
What complicates things is the potential cost of the new furnace. Depending on the size, efficiency, and comfort control, furnaces can cost a few thousand dollars or over $10,000 installed. It makes sense to get a few quotes if you’re seriously considering replacement.
2. What is Your Furnace Condition?
Every once in a while you see a beautiful vintage car on the road that looks great. But you can also see newer models that almost limp their way down the street. The same thing goes for furnaces.
Not all furnaces are made alike, and not all furnaces are installed or maintained alike. Sizing the furnace correctly to your home and taking care of the details during installation can make a huge difference in how long it lasts.
Just like your car, ideally you have your furnace maintained, cleaned, and safety checked every fall. This will ensure combustion byproducts are fully removed and no failing parts are making your furnace work harder than it needs to.
Here are some warning signs that your furnace may not be in great shape:
- More noise when the furnace is on, or different noises. Pops, bangs, creaking or squeaks should be treated with suspicion.
- Rising gas bills when usage habits and fuel costs have stayed the same. This can mean parts are wearing out and your furnace’s efficiency is compromised.
- Soot buildup around the venting stack.
- Signs of rust anywhere.
If you’ve noticed any of these, mention them to your repair technician and ask for their assessment.
3. Are There Rebates Available?
While you’re getting your quotes on a new system, ask if there are any deals or government rebates on. Sometimes they can make replacement more of an option.
4. What About Energy Efficiency?
If you’re looking for ways to reduce monthly fuel costs, a new furnace may make sense. If your furnace is very old, you may get significant savings on fuel. That’s because technology has really improved in the past 10 – 15 years.
To find out if it’s worth it, you’ll need to figure out what’s the highest efficiency furnace you can afford. Compare its annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) percentage to the number for your current furnace (in your manual). For example, say you like a 95% efficiency furnace, and your old one was just 82%. The difference is 13%.
Next, find out how much you spent on fuel for your furnace last winter. Say that amount was $1,960. You would then find 13% of 1,960 – if you don’t know how you can use this calculator tool. In our example, the new furnace would have saved $254.80 in fuel costs last year. When you multiply that by the 10 – 15 year lifetime of the furnace, the savings do add up.
5. Do You Want to Improve Your Temperature Control?
If you have different family members arguing about where to set the temperature in your home, or if you have rooms or entire floors that never warm up, you may want to go for a new furnace that’s multi-zone compatible. You’ll also need a zoning-compatible set of thermostats and a ductwork system that supports zoning, but if you have the money it can make things much more comfortable. You can read more about zoning here.
6. Your Budget
If you’re on a tight budget, that can influence your decision as well. Sometimes upfront cost is a bit much to take on, and going with the lower cost repair is a better option.
The risk, of course, is that other repairs may be needed in the future. This is much more likely if your furnace is older, of course. Ask your technician what they think of the overall condition of your furnace. They can’t make any guarantees, but if they think the furnace is overall in good shape a repair may make more sense.
Something to consider when on a budget: most companies offer a variety of ways to finance a new furnace. This may make a new furnace an option within reach.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider, and generally there will be more than one factor at play when you make your decision.