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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.