A working furnace is crucial to keep your home and loved ones warm. With the temperatures dropping, the last thing you want is to wake up and discover that your furnace is not working.

But how long does a furnace last? Let’s get into it.

To Repair or Replace

When the furnace starts acting up, a homeowner has two options. They can either repair the furnace or replace it. While some repairs can be simple DIY fixes, you may find yourself needing to call a professional to either repair or replace your furnace.

There are several factors that affect how long a furnace will last. One of the biggest factors is proper maintenance at regular intervals. The age of the furnace is also a big determining factor that will affect when you’ll be looking at replacing your furnace.

In this article, we will look at some considerations you need to make to see if it is time to repair or replace your furnace. We will also give you some troubleshooting tips to help you increase the life of your furnace and some simple repairs you can do yourself.

Signs that Your Furnace Needs Repairs

There are a few common signs that your furnace is in need of repair. Some of these are fairly obvious. For instance, something is definitely wrong if the heat is not coming on when the thermostat is set. There are some other factors that may not be as obvious that will tell you that your furnace is needing some work.

If you notice that some rooms are warmer than others, that can be a sign that there is something wrong with your thermostat. If you are constantly adjusting your thermostat to make your home comfortable, that is a sign that there is an issue with your furnace.

After living in your home for a while, you will become used to the noises that your furnace makes when it is starting up or running. You may hear a click indicating that the heat is kicking on, followed by the blowers.

However, you should be aware of your gas furnace making odd noises. A sign that your furnace may be wearing down is odd popping, booming, chirping,  or rattling noises. Each of these noises may indicate a specific problem that will need the attention of an HVAC professional. Some of these noises may be easy fixes, while others may require major repairs.

Also, if the blowers are running longer than normal or constantly kicking on and off, that can be an indicator that something is wrong with your furnace.

The excess noise can also be due to a worn-out blower motor. This part can be replaced for about $450, and will increase the life of your furnace. The blower motor can be checked by using a capacitor tester. While you can do this yourself, for safety reasons you can also contact an HVAC professional who can run the test as well.

Pools of water around your furnace can be an indicator of an issue with your furnace. While it may not be a dangerous situation, this is a sign that there could be an issue with the condenser line. A clogged or damaged line can cause water leakage which needs to be addressed by a professional. This is not an issue that should be fixed by a homeowner, as it may cause further damage if done incorrectly.

If you notice any foul smells coming from your furnace, that is an indicator that something is wrong with your furnace. If you notice smells like gas, a rotten egg-like odor, or burning electronics they are an obvious indicator that your furnace needs some attention and you should contact a professional right away and leave the home.

How Long Does A Furnace Last? Signs your Furnace Needs to be Replaced

There are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding to replace your furnace. Understanding these factors will help you to plan ahead for when you do need to replace your furnace and make an informed financial decision as opposed to making a purchase in a panic during the dead of winter.

How long does a furnace last? That’s the first factor.

The national average for the life expectancy of a furnace is between 16 and 20 years. With proper maintenance and care, a furnace can last up to 30 years.  If your furnace is this age or older it is time to begin shopping for a new unit.

Another factor to consider is your gas and electric bills. While the increasing cost of running a home may happen naturally with your power provider, older furnaces are also going to have to work harder and longer to heat a home.  As a result you may notice that your bills are increasing. A drastic increase in your heating bills is an indicator that your furnace is getting too old to properly heat your home.

As furnaces age, much like cars, they will require more repair work. They tend to have major maintenance issues in the last few years of their life. Older furnaces can also cost more for parts and longer wait times for the service workers to find a replacement part. If you are spending money on repairs for more than two years in a row, it is time to look for a new furnace.

Also, pay attention to the quality of the air in your home. Older furnaces have trouble moisturizing and cleaning the air in your home. This can cause the air in your home to seem stuffy or stale.

Symptoms of allergies and dry throats can be an indicator that your home indoor air quality is not as good as it should be.  If you notice an increase in dust accumulation and cracks in furniture, they are also an indication that your furnace is not working as it should.

If you are replacing your furnace, it is important to get the best price. It is suggested to contact at least three reliable professionals to get an estimate. The standard cost for a new furnace is between $2,500 to $3,000 for a good unit. Installation may be an additional $1,000.

If you replace your furnace you will definitely want to get a solid warranty. Make sure it is in writing, as this documentation will help if some unforeseen issues happen.

Warning Signs of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that can be fatal if exposed for too long or a high quantity. Every home should have working carbon monoxide detectors to help in preventing fatal exposure to the gas. An old furnace can increase the risk of carbon monoxide exposure as cracks can develop in the heat exchanger inside the furnace.

There are also a few additional signs that there could be a carbon monoxide leak.

If you notice your pilot light is flickering yellow instead of blue it is a possibility that there is carbon monoxide leaking from your furnace.  If you notice this, call an HVAC expert immediately.

There are some other physical warning signs that you may be experiencing a carbon monoxide leak. Look for streaks of soot around your furnace.

If you have a chimney, is there a lack of an updraft? If there is excessive moisture on windows, walls, or other cold surfaces this can be an indicator as well.

Finding excessive leaking water around the vents, furnace, or flue pipes as well as rusting around pipes connectors are signs that there could be a carbon monoxide leak.

There are also the physical effects that carbon monoxide can have on you and your loved ones. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include frequent headaches, a burning feeling in nose or eyes, nausea, disorientation, flu-like symptoms.

If you detect any of these symptoms, you should air out your home and open a window near your furnace and evacuate your family immediately. You should then call the local fire department to report a possible gas leak. You’ll need a gas professional to evaluate and repair the issue.

Regular maintenance on your furnace can help to avoid these possibly tragic situations. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a common cause of death in homes during the winter, with 500 deaths and 15,000 visits to the emergency room each year. By knowing the warning signs and replacing or repairing your furnace, you can avoid an emergency situation. On a side note, you can avoid this danger by going solar for heating and cooling your home.

Troubleshooting Furnace Maintenance 

There are a few things that homeowners can do to increase the average lifespan and quality of your furnace. These are usually inexpensive, and will help you to avoid the $1,000 or more to replace your whole unit unexpectedly.

Have an HVAC professional inspect and clean your furnace annually. Most HVAC professionals state that 75% of their no-heat calls are due to lack of maintenance.

The best time to do this in early fall, before the temperatures begin to drop and any issues can be fixed before they become a necessity with the cold weather. Having the window between summer and winter, where you may not be needing to run either your heating or cooling systems are the best time to have an HVAC inspection conducted.

The HVAC professional will clear out any dust and debris from your vents, allowing your furnace to run better. They can all find any issues that need to be fixed. The average cost for these inspections is between $50 and $100.

While it is suggested to have your heating and HVAC system checked in the fall, it is also recommended to have a check in the spring as well. This will ensure that your cooling system is ready for the summer.

Keeping Your Furnace Properly Maintained

Regularly checking and changing your furnace filter is one area of maintenance you can easily do yourself. If you notice that your furnace filter is dusty, it is time to change it. Dust and dirt accumulation will restrict airflow, causing your furnace to work harder and also lower the quality of air circulating in your home.

Another indicator that it is time to change your air filter is if the blower is on, but no warm air is coming through the vents. Change your filters approximately once a month. A clogged air filter can cause huge spikes in your heating costs, so regular inspection and changing your filter can save you lots of money as well as increase the life of your furnace.

You can fix some issues by installing a new thermostat. If you notice that the unit is turning off and on quickly in succession, this could be a sign or rapid cycling which is a thermostat issue. If your furnace is relatively new and is having issues running, it could be an issue with the thermostat communicating with the unit.

A thermostat may need new batteries or the circuit breaker replaced, depending on what type of thermostat you own. Thermostats are relatively cheap and can be something you can replace yourself. Just be careful as you will be working with electrical wiring. If you are unsure about how to replace a thermostat, an HVAC professional can help.

Another tip from professionals is to have an HVAC checklist. This can be something you can follow to make sure your heating system runs for years to come. Here are some items on the checklist you can do routinely (buying air filters, keep units clear of leaves, and have 2 feet of space around the unit outside).

Monthly or seasonal maintenance items:

  • Inspect refrigerant lines monthly for leaks
  • Replace air filters every 90 days
  • Turn off humidifier water in the summer
  • Turn humidifier on in the fall

Other annual maintenance items:

  • Change batteries in carbon monoxide detectors
  • Ensure outdoor units are on firm and even ground
  • Clean AC condenser with bleach water mixture

Following this checklist, as well as scheduling an annual inspection will increase the life of your furnace and HVAC unit.

A furnace can be an expensive item to replace. With these tips and pointers, you will be able to have your furnace running for a long time. Regular maintenance can help to prevent emergency repairs or replacements during the cold winter months. While some minor annual maintenance can be done on your own, it is best to seek the help of an HVAC professional for any major repairs or replacements.