Furnace Repair vs Furnace Replacement: 6 Major Considerations in 2021

As one of the most important investments and pieces of equipment in your home, it pays to know just how efficiently and effectively your furnace is operating. You need to know when to replace it before it costs you more in repairs than a new purchase, or if it becomes unsafe for your home. A comfortable and healthy home environment requires an energy-efficient and safe heating system—one that heats the home without consuming large amounts of energy and that doesn’t endanger the indoor air quality.

How do you know when it’s time to consider getting a new furnace? In this article we include 6 major considerations to make when deciding between furnace repair or furnace replacement. Our team is very knowledgeable in regard to energy efficient home heating from our experience providing top-rated HVAC services to the Denver, CO area. If you need help maintaining your heater or choosing the best option for replacement, give us a call at 720-805-1717 today!

How old is your furnace and is it time to replace it?

#1 – Consider the Age of the Furnace

The average life expectancy of a well installed and maintained furnace is 16-20 years. If your furnace is 15 years old or younger and has been properly maintained, you shouldn’t need to worry about replacing your unit just yet. Instead, you should spend some time and money to improve the energy-efficiency in other areas of your home and ensure that you perform regular, proper maintenance of your furnace to keep it lasting longer. 

If your furnace is close to 15 years or older, you should begin shopping. Shopping for a replacement furnace in an emergency does not allow time for you to make your best decision. Most people prefer to replace their furnace as a planned investment rather than a panic replacement when your furnace is faltering or has already failed. Our team of HVAC experts can properly assess the condition of your furnace and make any recommendations for maintaining optimal performance. 

REPAIR: If your system is less than 15 years old 

REPLACE: If your system is more than 15 years old 

Cost of furnace repair vs new furnace

#2 – Consider the Cost of the Furnace Repair Relative to Furnace Replacement

Furnaces are like cars. As they age, you can replace one part and only need another part replaced or repaired next year. Before you know it, you may find yourself spending hundreds just to keep an old oil or natural gas furnace running. Furnaces incur the most breakdowns and repair costs in the last 2 years of their lives, so remaining aware of your furnace’s performance and life expectancy can help you replace your furnace before reaching this end of life stage with your current furnace (and shelling out lots of money to keep it running, only to soon replace it!). Another consideration to make when thinking about repairing your furnace is whether you have ready access to replacement parts or if there is a wait to get parts replaced. As a furnace ages, it becomes harder to source replacement parts, and waiting for days or weeks just may not be an option over time—especially during below-zero nights.

REPAIR: The repair cost is less than ⅓ the cost of a new furnace 

REPLACE: The repair cost approaches 50% of the cost of a replacement furnace 

Are your furnace repairs frequent or severe?

#3 – Consider the Type & Frequency of Furnace Repairs

We love to see our customers, but if you just fixed a blower motor last year, an ignition switch last month, and now there’s a strange grinding sound coming from your furnace, it’s probably time to throw in the towel and spring for a new unit. If you are experiencing the need for frequent repairs or if the severity of the issue presents a major repair (like an issue with the control module or heat exchanger), then you should consider replacing your old furnace with a new unit. Minor repairs, like low airflow, leaking water, or malfunctioning thermostat, would likely be more cost-effective to repair. Our team of expert technicians can assess any issues with your furnace, explain why the repair should be fixed and what will be involved, and help you prioritize whether a repair or a replacement is best for you.  

REPAIR: Repairs are minor and isolated, like low airflow, leaking water or malfunctioning thermostat

REPLACE: Repairs are frequent or severe, like an issue with the control module or heat exchanger

How energy efficient is your furnace heater?

#4 – The Efficiency of Your Furnace

Rising energy costs are not the only reason for high bills. Furnaces often lose their efficiency as they age, especially if they have not been properly maintained. As a result, your furnace may begin to run longer to provide the same amount of heat. This will cause your energy bills to steadily increase over time. And, all of the extra money you are paying your energy utility company every month could be used to help you pay for a new, much more energy-efficient furnace! Start to compare the cost of your recent heating bills with heating bills from the previous years. If there is a significant increase, then it’s probably time to replace your furnace. 

In the U.S., furnace efficiency is regulated by minimum AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). AFUE estimates seasonal efficiency by averaging peak and part-load situations. AFUE is like your car mileage between fill-ups, including both highway driving and stop-and-go traffic. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace or boiler. And if your furnace’s AFUE is low, it can cost you. In fact, Colorado State University recently found that older furnaces and boilers can have efficiencies as low as 56%, while new units can achieve efficiencies of almost 99%. At Mercury Heat and Air Conditioning, we can assess the AFUE rating of your furnace system to help you understand how efficiently it is heating your home. We also offer free furnace inspections and air filter replacements to help you ensure optimal heating performance year-round. 

REPAIR: AFUE is 87% or higher and if your furnace system is less than 15 years old and the cost of repair is less than half the cost of replacement.

REPLACE: AFUE is lower than 56% and if your furnace system is more than 15 years old and requires a costly repair to maintain efficiency.

Is your natural gas furnace flame burning blue or yellow?

#5 – Consider the Color of Your Furnace’s Burner Flame (Natural Gas)

All heating systems run the risk of carbon monoxide emissions. However, owners of older chimney-vented oil-fired furnaces don’t necessarily face the same safety concerns posed by natural gas and propane because oil-fired boilers and forced-air furnaces tend to be much less likely to produce carbon monoxide. Because they were built like tanks and require regular annual maintenance and cleaning by a qualified service technician, many of these units chug along safely and reliably for decades. If you do have a natural gas or propane furnace, a yellow or flickering flame may be a sign that poisonous carbon monoxide could be created by your furnace. 

Other possible signs of carbon monoxide are:

  • Streaks of soot around furnace
  • Absence of an upward draft in your chimney
  • Excess moisture found on windows, walls, or other cold surfaces
  • Excessive rusting on flue pipes, other pipe connections, or appliance jacks
  • Small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent, or flue pipe
  • Rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from the outside

Always be mindful and monitor your furnace for any of the signs noted above and always make sure to have carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home, particularly close to your furnace room.

REPAIR: Your natural gas burner flame is blue, indicating complete fuel combustion

REPLACE: Your natural gas burner flame is yellow, indicating incomplete fuel combustion and potentially carbon monoxide emissions

Key warning signs you need to replace your furnace

#6 – Key Warning Signs that You Need to Replace Your Furnace

  • Your furnace is older (16-20 years)
  • Significant heating bill increases
  • Frequent repairs
  • Thermostat is not keeping you comfortable
  • Strange noises or smells
  • Dry or dusty air
  • Temperature variations that aren’t due to duct issues

If any of these “warning signs” apply to you, it might be time to consider the purchase of a new furnace.

Think you need a new furnace? Don’t despair. It may end up helping you save!

While buying a new furnace for your home is one of the more substantial costs involved in home ownership, it should also be seen as a long-term investment toward reducing overall costs. All of the latest furnaces are much more energy-efficient than those installed even 20 years ago. So, while it may seem like a larger expense in the short-term, a new, more energy-efficient home heating system will save you money in the long-term by lowering your annual energy costs.

About Mercury Heat and Air Conditioning

Mercury Heat and Air Conditioning is proud to serve as one of the most trusted and highly rated HVAC companies in Denver. That’s because we understand the meaning of family and keeping yours safe. As a fourth-generation family owned business run by Colorado native Patrick Guiry of Guiry’s Paints, the importance of protecting family is core to our business and guides everything we do. Mercury Heat and Air Conditioning was created to meet the demand for the same level of high quality service in home and light commercial heating and air conditioning in the Denver metro area. Our friendly team of HVAC experts goes above and beyond to ensure you receive the solutions you need at the prices that fit your budget, because that’s what we’d do for our own family.

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