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  • Writer's pictureRob Mitchell

Signs it’s time for a new furnace.

Updated: Jan 9

Winter is just around the corner. Soon your furnace will be needed for another season. We always receive a large number of service calls for furnaces on the first cold day of the fall. Take a few minutes and turn on your system today to make sure you will be ready for the cold weather. If you have a problem, give us a call and get it fixed early. How can you tell if the time to replace it is near?

Gas Furnace Burner

1. How old is your system?

Start by checking the age of your furnace. If you’re like most homeowners, your furnace was already in place when you moved into your home. Locate the owner’s manual or look up the system’s model and serial numbers which should be located on the furnace itself.

The typical lifespan of a gas furnace can be anywhere from 15 to 25 years. If you've had your furnace for less than 15 years, you likely don't have to worry about replacing it any time soon. If your furnace is nearing 30 years old, it's probably time to prepare for its replacement in the near future. The lifespan of your furnace depends on a variety of factors, including the type of furnace you have, how often you use it, how well it was installed and whether it was regularly maintained during its lifetime.

2. Are your energy bills higher than last year?

Newer, furnace systems tend to perform at peak efficiency level; older ones usually don't. An increase in energy bills can mean that your system is running less efficiently. As you look at your energy bills, you should consider all variables, including changes in pricing from your energy company and the average winter temperatures. However, if you have factored in the variables and are still finding your monthly usage higher than it once was, you could be dealing with a worn-out furnace that has to work harder than ever to get the job done. According to Energy Star, an energy-efficiency program run by the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling expenses make up a staggering 42% of the energy bill for an average household.

3. Is soot on or around your furnace?

As the furnace in your house burns fuel to create heat, especially natural gas, there are remnants left over after the process is completed. This is called “incomplete combustion.” One of the combustion byproducts is carbon, the primary ingredient in black soot. Normally, it is transferred safely out of your house through the heat exchanger. Some soot is not a major concern. A larger amount of soot may indicate that the furnace is not functioning as efficiently as it should. The first time you find soot you won’t know how long it has been there. If the amount found seems small, wipe or vacuum it away. Return a few days later and check again. If there is none, it may be nothing to worry about. However, if the new accumulation is significant, you should have a professional look at it. Your furnace may have a fuel valve malfunctioning, resulting in too much fuel in the combustion chamber. It might have an airflow restriction limiting the volume of air in the combustion chamber. There could be an ignition problem that is leading to inefficient combustion. The problem may be small or you might need a new furnace.

4. Are rooms heating unevenly?

As your furnace ages, it may no longer be able to push heat evenly throughout your home. It may struggle to blow warm air to those parts of the house that are furthest from the furnace, such as upstairs rooms. You may also find that large rooms feel warm on one side but cold on the other side. This is another sign that it may be time to consider installing a new furnace.

5. Has your furnace started making strange noises?

If you've noticed that your furnace is suddenly making strange noises it could be something serious or it may be nothing at all.

Popping: If it’s the first time you’re starting your furnace for the winter season, the dust and dirt that gets around the igniter could cause a popping sound when the flames first fire. A popping noise is also sometimes caused by other parts in your furnace affected by the temperature change, as it heats up.

Rattling: A rattling sound may be caused by loose ducts or equipment. Normally this can be easily corrected by better fastening these items.

Humming: A soft hum is caused by the furnace blower motor during normal operation. However, if this noise has become noticeably louder, it could be an indication of a blower motor problem.

Screeching: This noise might also be the result of a blower motor issue. However, it could be caused by a damaged belt or pulley.

Clicking: A clicking noise may indicate your flame sensor or igniter needs to be fixed. Luckily, this type of sound is common and can often be fixed by performing a minor furnace repair.

Booming: A booming sound may be a sign of a gas emission issue. This noise is often caused by a brief delay during the ignition process. However, a lingering gas odor smell is a clear indicator that it’s time to have a professional check your furnace.

6. Are your furnace flames yellow instead of blue?

A new efficient furnace will always produce a clean blue flame. If the flames coming from the burners are yellow, this may be an indication of incomplete or inefficient combustion. This usually happens if the furnace is dirty, especially the burner or heat exchanger. The dirt can prevent the gas and oxygen from mixing properly, which can affect the flame. Yellow flames may also be a sign of a gas leak that needs to be repaired. If you notice yellow flames in your furnace accompanied by a gas odor, call a professional immediately.

7. Is your furnace requiring frequent repairs?

Look back at your repair bills and note how many times you had to call on an HVAC contractor to repair your heating system within the last two years. If it is more than a few times, it may be time to consider replacement.

8. Do you see rust or cracks in or around your furnace?

Rust and cracks will naturally occur over time as your furnace ages. If you find cracks in your furnace or rust in and around it, it is time to consider replacement.

There are a variety of ways to prolong the lifespan of your furnace. Replace your furnace filters frequently. Have it cleaned and inspected periodically. Sealing the windows and doors in your home to reduce heat loss can help reduce your furnace’s workload. Installing a programmable thermostat may also enhance the efficiency of your furnace.

Of course, we would be happy to provide you with a 2nd opinion regarding your furnace’s condition and the possible need to replace it.

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Elbert Heating & Air

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