Sometimes when a furnace breaks down, the cost to repair it can be high. At that point, people often wonder if it makes more sense to just get a new one. The answer depends on a lot of things, including the customer.

Let’s take a look at the factors that you should weigh when the time comes to make a decision.

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Repair Costs vs Replacement Costs

When the cost of the repair gets close to $1,000 it’s time to ask about the price range of new systems. You should also consider repair frequency – if you’ve had to pay for several repairs in the past few years it may be too much.

You can get a new furnace installed for a few thousand dollars or more, and if your timing is right there may even be a rebate happening. (We can’t give you an exact furnace prices here, as cost varies considerably depending on the model and features).

Ask for a consultation on a new furnace, and get a few quotes on models that make sense for your home. Find out about what the interest and monthly payments will be if you get financing as well.

From there you’ll be able to compare the costs and what makes the most sense for you.

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Furnace Age

If the furnace is older than 10 years, consider replacing it. Furnaces typically last at least 15 years and can last much longer, especially with regular maintenance. But like most machines, furnaces can develop more problems with age.

To find out how old the furnace is, just check the sticker on the front. Installers usually write down the installation date. Otherwise, find the model and serial numbers from your paperwork and call the manufacturer. If you don’t have the original paperwork, it can be found on a sticker inside the main cabinet door – ask your technician to write it down for you when the cabinet is open. (Warning: opening a furnace can be dangerous – if you don’t know what you’re doing please don’t do this yourself).

Furnace technology has come a long way in the last 10-15 years, so you can get a much more efficient system – we’ll talk about that more below.

If your furnace is newer, it may still be under warranty. Check your manual and information package to be sure.

Safety

Because furnaces burn fuel, there are natural byproducts from this process that are dangerous and must be vented outside your home. The most deadly of these is carbon monoxide – CO. This an odourless, colourless gas can actually kill people.

Occasionally a problem with the furnace (for example, a cracked heat exchanger) means that CO and other gasses can escape into your home. If your technician can show you the crack (this is important), it’s definitely time to look at a new furnace. Cracks actually get larger when the heat exchanger is producing a lot of heat. Replacing a heat exchanger is so expensive that it makes sense to just buy a new furnace.

(By the way, we hope you have a CO alarm installed in your home – it’s not expensive and can save your life. It’s also Ontario law.)

Efficiency and Monthly Gas Bills

Something not everyone thinks about when they have an old furnace: fuel efficiency. That old system can be costing you more than necessary in gas. Modern furnaces can be up to 25% more efficient than an old one.

To find out the difference, compare the AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) numbers for the old furnace and the new one. Furnaces from the 1980s could be 70% or 80% AFUE, and modern ones have to be 90% AFUE or better by law.

Say your old furnace is 70%, and the new one you’re interested in is 95%, that would give you 25% more efficiency. Once you know the difference you can sit down with your old gas bills and figure out how much you should save.

Special tip: the AFUE rating for a furnace is its potential. Lack of maintenance can reduce a furnace’s efficiency, especially if it is older.

Cold Rooms that Never Warm Up

Some homes have rooms or even entire floors that never warm up. There could be many causes for this, including poorly designed ductwork, lack of insulation, or an incorrectly sized furnace. Some furnaces just aren’t as good at keeping an overall even temperature if they have just a single blower motor speed and/or gas burner stage.

While getting a new furnace does cost money, it also presents an opportunity to make some improvements in the quality of your home comfort. Get all the facts and weigh the costs involved.

Noise Level

Some cheaper or older furnaces don’t have modern noise control features. From motor design to sound insulation in the cabinets, there’s a lot that can be done to keep a furnace quiet.

How loud is your furnace? There are many smartphone apps that can tell you. Compare that to the noise level specified for any new furnace models you may be considering. If the brochure doesn’t give the sound level in decibels, ask your heating consultant to find out for you.

The Need for Better Humidification, Ventilation, or Filtration

Older furnaces may heat your home reasonably well, but they may lose any built-in humidification ability they once had. If you’re finding that your home is dryer that in past winters, or if you have stuffy air or have allergies, replacing a furnace is a good time to add or upgrade your air quality equipment.

The Need for Space

In smaller homes, every square foot counts. Today’s furnaces do a better job and also take up less room.

Adding it All Up

When making your decision, you need to have all the facts, as any one of them can make a difference. For example, you may not spend $700 to repair an old furnace, but spending that amount may make sense if your furnace is only a few years old and has all the modern features you want.

In the end, you will have to weigh the costs and make a decision that gives you the most peace of mind. Either way you’ll be spending money, so ensure you’re making an investment, and not throwing your money away.