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Are you trying to decide whether your furnace needs replaced now, or if you should try to get another year or two out of it?

No homeowner wants to throw money away during the long Minnesota winter. Let's take a look at some things that could help you decide whether it's best to repair or replace your furnace at this time. Answer these questions to help you decide if it's really time to buy a new furnace.

1. Is your furnace aged 15 years or older?

A natural gas furnace can last 15+ years, especially if it receives an annual tune-up and its filter is replaced regularly. Because our furnace technicians see a decrease in reliability, performance and efficiency in furnaces exceeding 15 years of age, we generally recommend getting a new furnace at the 15-year mark.

Any money you save by getting another year or two out of your furnace can be offset quickly by the inconvenience (and potential danger) of a furnace breakdown in the Minnesota winter. After weighing the risks and rewards, most customers follow our recommendation and replace their natural gas furnace when it reaches 15 years of age.

2. Is your furnace breaking down often?

If your aging gas furnace needs repaired frequently, it's probably best to replace it now, unless you have a repair plan protecting you from the cost of furnace breakdowns. Furnace repair bills can quickly add up and offset any money you save by delaying the purchase of a new furnace. At some point, you end up throwing money away to keep an old, low-efficiency furnace running instead of getting a new, reliable unit.

3. Are your heating costs going up?

If your home heating costs are climbing, without significant usage or outside temperature changes, it may be a sign that your furnace is failing (check to make sure a price change in the cost of natural gas isn't the reason). Remember, a new high-efficiency furnace will use less natural gas than older units with lower efficiency ratings (AFUE).

4. Is your furnace making noises?

A furnace will often become louder or make unfamiliar noises before it breaks down. If you hear new or changing sounds from your furnace – like rattling, humming, whirring or buzzing – it can indicate that your furnace needs replaced or repaired.

Get a technician to check it out, preferably before the bitter-cold temperatures arrive. 

5. Is your home becoming less comfortable?

These situations could indicate that your furnace is failing:

  • A change in the warmth of your home
  • Some rooms are hotter or colder

If you're experiencing the problems above, get an HVAC technician to inspect your home heating system. But if your furnace is 15 years or older, you might simply opt to replace it with a high efficiency natural gas furnace.

6. Does your furnace appear rusty or cracked?

Corrosion can be a major warning sign of impending furnace failure. If you see visible cracks or rust in the furnace or its components, it's time to have it checked out by professional. It's important to get this done ASAP, because carbon monoxide is a potential hazard (more on that below).

7. Did your carbon monoxide alarm/detector go off?

If your carbon monoxide (CO) detector went off, DO NOT IGNORE IT! Take detection of CO seriously, as carbon monoxide poisoning kills nearly 500 people each year. Because CO is odorless and tasteless gas, it's important to have a high-quality carbon monoxide detector in your home.

It's normal for natural gas furnaces to produce a small, harmless amount of carbon monoxide – an odorless and tasteless gas – that is routed outside of your home via a chimney or vent. However, failing furnaces can create larger amounts of CO. Holes, cracks or corrosion within your furnace components could allow harmful levels of carbon monoxide to seep into your home, rather than up the chimney.

Replace vs. Repair: What's at Stake?

Losing your primary heating source is not only inconvenient; it can be dangerous. Furnace breakdowns often occur during cold spells, when your furnace is working its hardest. A furnace breakdown may put family members and household pets at risk, as Minneapolis regularly experiences sub-zero temperatures during the winter. The lowest outdoors temperatures typically occur at night when family members are at home, sleeping.

Also consider that a furnace breakdown can significantly damage your home, as water pipes may freeze and burst. Water damage can also lead to mold growth, a potential health hazard.

Heating-and-cooling companies become extremely busy during cold spells (when furnaces and boilers most often fail). If your furnace fails, there's a chance you'll end up in a long line of customers seeking furnace replacement or repair. You want your furnace to work when it's needed most!

Replacing Your Furnace? How to Get It Right

When you decide it is time to buy a new furnace, you still have an intimidating set of decisions to make. What furnace brand, model, features, warranty, and AFUE (efficiency rating) are right for your home and budget? Most homeowners know little about HVAC systems and furnace replacement. Do some research to empower yourself, but remember that there's no substitute for the knowledge of an industry expert.

Why not get free advice of a furnace expert? If you're within a Home Service Plus® (HSP) service area, a heating expert will travel to your home and perform a FREE home consultation.

HSP's FREE furnace consultation includes:

  1. Measuring your home and providing you with a computerized heat loss/heat gain assessment.
  2. Reviewing code, comfort, noise or any special consideration for your home or household.
  3. Discussing available rebates or money-saving specials.
  4. Giving you options on equipment and accessories from brand name manufacturers.
  5. Preparing a comprehensive proposal for a furnace system best suiting your needs and budget.

To learn more about our honest and friendly furnace-replacement process, visit High Efficiency Natural Gas Furnaces, or schedule a free in-home consultation with HSP.