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How Long Does A Furnace Last & When To Replace It

how long does a furnace last and when to replace it

Furnaces are the central powerhouse that keeps your home warm and toasty. As the main component of your HVAC system, it is important to know how a furnace works and what your options are when it is time to consider a furnace replacement. Here are the factors to consider when deciding to repair or replace your furnace.

How Does a Furnace Work?

As one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home, a working furnace is pretty important for you and your family’s comfort. A furnace has four main parts: 

  • Thermostat – calls for heat which signals the furnace to turn on
  • Ignitor – once it receives the call from the thermostat it ignites the fuel source which creates the heat 
  • Heat Exchanger – absorbs the heat from the burner and heats the air that is then blown through the heating ducts 
  • Blower Motor – this is what sends or pushes the heated air through the ducts

A thermostat regulates the temperature in your home and tells your furnace when to ignite fuel to warm the combustion chamber. This heats the air captured in the return air duct and an electric motor pushes the warm air through the ducts warming your home. 

What are the Types of Furnaces?

There are several types of furnaces, most burn fuel like natural gas or oil, and some are electric. The type of furnace you have depends on the availability of energy sources and what is the best choice for your home and budget.

What is a natural gas furnace?

In Portland, most furnaces are natural gas, one of the most popular fuels to heat homes in America. A new gas furnace is highly efficient – up to 98 percent, meaning that very little fuel is wasted. 

What is an electric furnace?

Some furnaces use electricity which in Portland, with hydroelectricity available, is a viable option. Electric furnaces do not need a combustion chamber but instead use heated coils that warm the cold air drawn into the unit. 

What is an oil furnace?

Oil furnaces are not common anymore in the Pacific Northwest but can be the heating system in older homes. Unlike natural gas that is piped directly to the home, heating oil is purchased and stored in a tank on the property.

Well-maintained oil furnaces can last a long time and are most often found in areas where natural gas is not available. Older homes are converting from oil to gas furnaces as they take up less space and are more efficient.

Additional reading: Heat Pump vs Furnace: Which One To Choose?

What is the Average Furnace Lifespan?

The average furnace lifespan is between 15 and 20 years. With proper maintenance, the life of your furnace could be even longer. If your furnace is around 15 years old it is a good time to start researching available options for a new furnace. Many new systems are more energy-efficient and can help reduce monthly energy bills.

What Factors Determine a Furnace’s Longevity?

There is a list of things that can determine if a furnace is going to have a long life or will need to be replaced more quickly. 

  • Make and model of the furnace
  • Age of the furnace
  • Appropriate size of the furnace
  • Proper furnace installation
  • Proper furnace maintenance
  • Proper use of thermostat settings
  • Location and proper ventilation

No matter if you installed your furnace or bought it with the home, the most important of these factors – and the one you have the most control over – is regular maintenance.

Changing air filters regularly and making sure that your furnace is ready for the next winter season is critical in keeping wear and tear to a minimum.

However, as your furnace ages and it comes time to start researching new furnaces for your home, keep all these factors in mind and ask your furnace expert how to install the right new furnace.

Additional reading: 7 Secrets To Extending The Life Of Your HVAC System

How Often Should My Furnace Be Maintained?

We will never stop saying it – you can avoid costly repairs, premature furnace replacement, or inconvenient cold and uncomfortable days with regular furnace maintenance. It is always easier and more cost-effective to keep something in tip-top shape – before an issue arises – than to call in an emergency repair.

It also means that you will know when it is time to replace your older furnace and plan accordingly. Get your furnace tuned up at the beginning of the fall season – before you start using it – and get ahead of any potential issues. 

When Should You Repair vs Replace a Furnace?

The occasional furnace repair is expected as your HVAC system ages. As you get your yearly routine maintenance your trusted HVAC technician should be able to guide, reporting on furnace health and how to plan.

What are the signs that a furnace needs repair?

Any clunking and whining from your furnace is an SOS that all is not right. Foul smells, such as the rotten egg, natural gas smell, are also signs that there is potentially a crack in the heat exchanger that needs to be repaired or your furnace needs to be replaced.

Your energy bill could also be telling you that something is wrong. Spikes in energy usage or furnace short-cycles but turning on and off more frequently are all telltale signs that you need an expert to look at your HVAC system.

Additional reading: 10 Warning Signs Your Furnace Needs to Be Serviced

When is it time to get a new furnace?

You will know that the end is near for your older furnace when the repairs start becoming more and more frequent. As furnaces get older they have to work harder to keep your home at the desired temperature.

Energy bills also start rising and you might notice other furnace problems like the blower cycling on and off more frequently and you adjusting your thermostat more often. It also might be time to replace an older oil furnace with a more efficient and space-saving gas furnace if gas is now available in your area.

Additional reading: Furnace Problems: 10 Common Issues & Easy Solutions

What does a furnace replacement cost?

Heating your home is a major part of your household bills so finding a quality furnace is going to affect you – and your bills – for the next 15 or more years. A reliable furnace can cost between $4,500 and $7,000+. Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning can help you decide on the best new furnace for your home and life.

Additional reading: How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Furnace?

How Jacobs Can Help

Replacing your furnace doesn’t need to be a difficult decision. Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning experts are here to guide you through the process to help you pick the right heating system for your home. Consultants will help evaluate your home to ensure you have a reliable and long-lasting HVAC system that will keep you comfortable and save money.

Avoid extra costs and fewer repairs by scheduling a tune-up for your existing system before issues arise. Our professional maintenance plans keep your heating system running like clockwork without any stress or hassle. No matter what you need we’re always just a phone call away. You are welcome to review our statement on COVID-19 and how we’re taking precautions to protect you, our team, and our communities.

About the Author

Amanda Jacobs portrait

Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.