1. Repair or Replace Your Furnace? The Facts to Consider in Making a Decision

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    As a homeowner, you understand the need to do maintenance work on the infrastructure of your home: a fresh paint job every few years, or repairing or replacing your roof are a couple of examples of what it takes to maintain the value of your home in anticipation of the day when you may sell it. Repairing or replacing your HVAC system is another area of concern in maintaining your home and its contents in A-one shape. At some point in time you will need to decide on whether you can continue to make repairs on your heating system to keep it operating longer, or is it time to invest in a new HVAC system, whether it be a new furnace or air conditioner. In this blog we will talk about how to decide to repair, or replace your HVAC heating system.

    Your Furnace’s Age

    Let’s consider how old your heating system is. The lifespan of a furnace varies, according to which HVAC experts you ask. Some say you can expect your furnace to last 10 to 15 years, while others estimate the lifespan to be 15 to 20 years. If your furnace is at least 10 years or older you may need to start repairing it more often.

    Here’s another way to look at it. Replacement of your heating system might be in order if it has exceeded 75% of its lifespan. Which means if your heating system has aged 15 years and you need to spend $750 for a repair it’s not worth it. Better to update to a new model and cash in on the savings you’ll experience with tax credits, rebates, and lower energy bills. Go for broke and don’t be content with a model that has 80% energy-efficiency; buy a model with 95% energy-efficiency. It only makes sense when you realize a model that has almost 100% energy-efficiency is going to pay you dividends in spades. But it’s up to you to decide; we’re only putting out information to help you decide if repair or replacement is better, depending on the age of your system.

    Old Technology vs. New Technology

    Another consideration on whether you should repair or replace is outmoded technology. Older-model technology can’t offer the kind of efficiency and savings on your energy bills newer HVAC models can, plus newer models come with the most advanced features to make the heating system’s operation easier and more convenient.

    Expense to Repair

    Consumer Reports puts out guidelines that say–among other considerations–that when repairs are costing you more than 50% of the expense of a new heating system, it is about the savings to you in the long run that makes it wiser to invest in a new heating system. Besides new heating systems arrive with a warranty to protect you against spending money on repairs if there are any problems while the heating system is under warranty.

    Municipal, State, and Federal Tax Credits

    In purchasing a new heating system you can save even more because you’ll be eligible to receive local and state tax credits. Even a federal tax credit is available, depending on the model you choose. These incentives could add up to as much as 30% of the purchase price of your new higher-efficiency heating system. Factor in savings of 20% to 40% on energy costs, and you can begin to see it’s a no-brainer.

    Here’s another piece of information to chew on. If your old heating system dates from the 1970’s its efficiency rating is around 65%. With current heating system models the efficiency rating jumps to 97%. At this high rate of energy-efficiency that will lower your energy bills significantly; the new heating system will pay for itself over time.

    Power Company Rebates

    There are more savings to be had if your local utility company offers a rebate for buying an energy-efficient heating system. And when you purchase a newer, more efficient model you’ll save on your monthly power bills.

    Environment and its Impact

    If you want to leave less of a carbon footprint it’s wise to upgrade to an Energy-Star-certified heating system that meets, or goes beyond federal regulations on what constitutes energy-efficiency. A fact you should know about: HVAC systems (both heating and cooling) make up approximately 50% of the energy use in your home.

    In an effort to try and stop the depletion of the ozone layer the federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency has authorized phasing out R-22 refrigerant by the year 2020. Buying an R0410A heating system will support the environment as well as help you not spend more money on repairing your old heating system. As R-22 refrigerant becomes less available due to the phase-out it will be more expensive to buy.

    System Performance

    If you’re having to repeatedly re-set the thermostat to remain comfortable; rooms are heating unevenly; the heating system is becoming noisy with sounds like clattering or knocking, snapping or squeaking; or the blower either runs continuously, or repeatedly shuts off-and-on; it’s time to consider replacing your heating system. These symptoms are all signs of a heating system that hasn’t long to go before it expires.

    Effects on Family Health

    An aging heating system may start to show cracks. When this occurs toxic gas, known as carbon monoxide, can infiltrate your home, causing family members to experience nausea, dizziness, headaches and other symptoms flu-like in nature. An emergency such as this requires immediate action to save your family’s health. Throwing open all the windows and doors in your home and leaving the house is vital. Next, you must get the gas shut off by contacting either your fire department or utility company. This is where a service contract can come in handy, because you will be able to get an HVAC repair technician to your home immediately. A service contract usually contains a priority maintenance clause, which means service repair technicians are on-call to provide emergency service 24/7. Better to get the problem taken care of right away than to spend a night in an expensive motel room. Once at your home the HVAC repair technician can advise you whether your heating system only needs repair, or if now is the time to replace it.

    Dry or Dusty Air

    An older heating system is unable to freshen the air, or increase its moisture content to ensure the comfort of you and your family during the winter months. Symptoms of a malfunctioning heating system include a feeling of staleness or stuffiness in the air; the worsening of indoor allergies; or a feeling of dryness in your throat, nose, and on your skin. These indicators mean it’s likely the time to buy a new heating system. Other signs that mean you might need a new heating system are frequent buildup of dust; static shocks; plants that are unhealthy; creaking floorboards and furniture, or a piano that needs more frequent tuning.

    We hope this information has been helpful to you in making a decision on either repairing or replacing your HVAC heating system.

  2. How to Decide if Your Furnace Needs Repair Now or Later

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    Summer’s nearly over with fall nipping at your heels. Those of you who live in cold country know the air can begin to turn sharp and chilly even in September. You’re debating with yourself whether to schedule some maintenance repairs on your heating system now, or wait until the days and nights become frosty, demanding you start using your heating system.

    If your heating system is over 10 years old, and it’s starting to require more repairs beside the usual maintenance we hope you’ve been performing, don’t put off getting a tune-up, either by doing it yourself, or having an HVAC professional come out to check on the state of your heating system. It’s a good time of year to find out if your heating system is ready for the rigors of winter’s freezing temperatures. The worst-case scenario–if you don’t make sure your heating system is in good shape for winter–could be, while under the yoke of winter’s fierce ice- and snow storms, causing possible outages, you could be stuck toughing it out until a heating repair technician can get to your home, and bring comfort to it. Unless you’ve got a service contract with a priority maintenance clause in it, don’t hold your breath waiting on a repair technician. They’re probably over-worked with calls coming in from other homeowners in your community in the same predicament.

    With all this being said, it’s just not repair and maintenance work you need to think about, but if you actually need to purchase a new heating system because the aging one you have now could completely go out-of-commission. Then you’ll be left with hurriedly trying to decide on what kind of heating system to get (should you go with a standard or state-of-the-art model?), and quickly putting in an order. How soon can it be delivered? Better make it a rush delivery, like next day, you hope? And then you must make an appointment to get your new HVAC unit installed, and how soon can that happen? There are so many variables at play if your old heating system can’t chug another mile.

    Here are some reasons to consider replacing your heating system now before old man winter is stomping at your front door:

    The Age of Your Heating System

    The heating system that has been well taken of over time starts to lose heating efficiency somewhere between 10 and 15 years. During this period you may notice you’re scheduling more repair work. If this is the case for you, start to research and shop for a new heating system well before you start exhaling clouds of cold air.

    The Increase in Your Energy Bills

    Compare your utility bills with last year’s and the year before. If you see a marked increase taking place that is getting higher and higher than normal, it’s time to contemplate buying a new heating system. Steady, upward increases in your utility bills are an indicator your heating system is losing efficiency, particularly if regular maintenance has not been performed on your heating system over the years.

    The Frequency of Repair Work

    Repairs are likely going to need to be done for any aging heating system once it hits the 10-year mark. Yet if you’re shelling out $100 or more to prolong the life of your heating system too often you should be heading to your home improvement center, or HVAC showroom to check out the new heating unit models in advance of winter’s wrath.

    The Functioning of Your Thermostat

    Many heating system problems can be chalked up to a disconnect between your thermostat and the heating unit. You can troubleshoot this issue easily by making a tour of your home. Do you notice that rooms are being heated unevenly? Are some very warm while others are very cold? Are you forever needing to calibrate your thermostat to stay comfortably warm? If this is true your thermostat is probably on the brink of conking out once and for all.

    The Functioning of Your Burner Flame

    Take a look at your burner flame to see if it’s burning correctly. You should see a steady, intense blue flame. If the burner flame is yellow and fluttering it is not burning correctly, and leaking a potentially deadly gas, carbon monoxide, into the air. There are other indicators that carbon monoxide is present in the air:

    • Appearance of soot around your heating system
    • Lack of an upward draft in your chimney well
    • Abundance of moisture occurring on your walls, windows, and cold surfaces anywhere in your home
    • Appearance of rust build-up on pipe connectors, flue pipes, or appliance jacks
    • Water leaks emanating from the chimney, flue pipes, or vent bases
    • Rust build-up on the vent pipe outside your house

    The Noisiness of Your Heating Unit

    If your heating system has been making odd sounds like banging, snapping, clattering, and squealing, your heating system is on its last legs. At the same time you may notice the heating-unit blower running non-stop, or shutting off and on over and over. These are other signals your heating unit is headed for the recycling center sooner than later.

    Your Family’s Health

    Your family’s exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, and other symptoms associated with the flu. This can happen if your old heating unit has formed cracks that permit the lethal gas to permeate your home. The possibility that carbon monoxide has spread through the air in your home demands quick action. This means pushing all the windows open as well as the doors, and leaving immediately. Call the fire department so they can come out to turn off the gas. Or you can call the gas company to do the same.

    Once you’re back inside your home contact an HVAC company to service your heating unit and advise you if a repair can be done, or you need a new heating system.

    It’s not only your family members, who are being affected by an ancient and ill-running heating system; your whole indoor environment is affected as well: dust is amassing quickly all over any exposed surfaces; you are experiencing static shocks; your plants are dying; and your wood floors and furniture splintering.

    Air Quality

    Older-model heating units don’t have the capability to freshen your indoor air and humidify it. So if you find the air in your home musty, or lacking ventilation it’s because your old heating system hasn’t the capacity to ventilate the air or freshen it. You’ll notice these and other signs of a decrepit heating system during the winter months. You’ll also note that your indoor allergies are worsening, and maybe you’re experiencing the drying-out of your nasal and throat passages, as well as dry, itchy skin.

    Decision Time

    The foregoing are all possible omens of a heating system in its decline. So should you wait until next season to buy a new heating system, while you keep the old one limping along with whatever band-aid repair has been made to it?

    The decision to be made is should you repair your heating system if it has been determined that a repair is all it needs? Or is it actually time to purchase a new heating system? With all the information we’ve provided in this blog, you can make a considered decision to either repair or buy before disaster strikes, taking into account the signs of an inefficient and creaking system. Or if you’ve done well by your heating system, and little or no repairs are needed, then you can probably delay the decision to buy a new heating system until the following year.

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