You call an HVAC company to get your furnace serviced prior to the fall and winter season and when the technician comes out to look at it, they tell you that you will need to replace the entire system. They might start talking about bringing things up to current code. There might be talk of BTUs or talk about the size of the ductwork and velocity of airflow. They could say you need a new furnace because yours is 10 years old and “could go any minute”. This all sounds scary! You can’t risk your heat going out in the dead of winter!
So how do you know if you really need a new furnace or if the HVAC company just wants to sell you a new unit? The average cost to replace a gas furnace can range from $4000 to $8000 and can be even higher depending on whether ductwork and other components need to be replaced. With this in mind, it’s important to ask questions and do some research before committing to a new system.
How long should my furnace last?
With proper maintenance, gas furnaces last 20 to 30 years, or even longer. If a furnace is properly maintained and gets serviced regularly, it is unlikely that it needs to be replaced. Typically, once the heat exchanger cracks, it may be time to replace the system since it is one of the most expensive components.
What if some rooms get more heat or air conditioning than others? Doesn’t that mean the system is malfunctioning?
Maybe. Maybe not. It is common in older homes with single zoned HVAC systems for rooms to heat and cool differently. If you are in a two-story home, the upstairs will get and stay warmer since heat rises. Many people prefer to get a dual or multiple zone system for this reason, but that is a matter of preference and not a defect of the current system.
Isn’t a new system better?
Just like a car, as the heating system ages, it can become less efficient and need maintenance and repairs more often. But many older furnaces are still in good working order at 30+ years old and replacing them is a preference, not a necessity.
What should I do if I’m told I need to replace my heater or upgrade my whole HVAC system?
Get a second and third opinion and find trusted resources. Ask around to friends, family, your home inspection company, and do your homework by checking reviews online. This is a major expense and you want to make sure it’s a necessary one. It could be that your furnace works just fine and you need a regular servicing and nothing more.
Bottom Line: Make a decision based on fact, not fear.
Even if an HVAC technician recommends replacing your furnace, that does not mean it’s necessary. The technician may just prefer newer systems and always make this recommendation. They may be directed by their company to sell new systems rather than the less profitable service of repairing older systems. They might be focused on current code regulations. It’s important to note that many items in older homes are not up to code. Code requirements change frequently so it’s not realistic, or sometimes not even possible to bring everything in your older home up to current code. Ask questions, get outside advice, and do your homework.
We are here to help! If you ever need advice from a neutral third party or recommendations for a reputable HVAC technician, give us a call.
By Jamie Meissner
Jamie Meissner is the Director of Operations for Liberty Inspection Group based in Media, Pennsylvania. Liberty was named one of the Philadelphia 100 in 2019 by the Wharton SBDC, making them one of the fastest growing businesses in the Philadelphia area. Liberty is a full-service inspection firm providing commercial and residential inspections.