Heating system problems commonly lead to significant stress. They usually happen during the times you depend on it most, making repairs an emergency. It’s easy to think you’re going to need an entirely new system with even the slightest problems. However, not every problem necessitates a replacement. Here’s how to know when to consider repairing versus replacing your heating system.
Your System’s Age
Your system’s age is one of the first things to consider when determining how to proceed with your problem. With proper maintenance, the average heating system will last 15 to 20 years. If your system is less than 10 years old, you may be able to repair your system. You may even have a warranty to cover those repairs. As you approach and exceed 15 years, some other factors will play a more significant role.
Your heating system will need periodic maintenance if you want it to reach its full expected service life. This maintenance includes deep cleaning, plus testing to check for small problems that will quickly escalate into major repairs. If you haven’t given your system regular maintenance, you’re likely going to need a replacement sooner, with repairs cascading due to excessive strain.
Climbing Energy Bills
As good practice, you should keep an eye on your energy consumption both month to month and year to year. Seeing your actual consumption increase every month over the previous year indicates your system is losing efficiency. This may be as simple as your system needing a tune-up, or it could be a symptom of an older system nearing the end of its service life.
Increasingly Frequent Repairs
You may have parts fail or wear out over the years you’ll use your system. However, steadily increasing repairs indicates you’re heading toward the end of your service life. In fact, it’s common knowledge you’ll face the most repairs over the last two years of your heating system’s usefulness.
Skyrocketing Repair Costs
Not only will your system need more frequent repairs, but those repairs will also become increasingly more expensive as the major components fail. You can easily determine whether the costs to repair your system warrants replacing the system instead.
Simply multiply the cost of the repairs needed by your system’s age in years. If the product is greater than the cost of a new system, you’re better off replacing your system. Consider adding the last 12 months’ repairs together, and do the calculation if your system is greater than 15 years old.
Your system should evenly heat your home when everything is working properly and your vents are all open. Inconsistent temperatures only indicate your system has a problem. This could range from an ineffective duct system to a failing circulating fan or a major burner problem. Combine this problem with other variables to determine if you should solve this problem on its own or look at a new system.
Unusual Cycle Length
Your system should not run constantly but should have a cycle length of 10-20 minutes, depending on the outside temperature. Longer cycles indicate your system’s efficiency is waning. Shorter cycles are often more frequent and indicate your system may be overheating. This is common both when a sensor fails and when your system nears the end of its service life. A professional evaluation will help you determine which is the case for your system.
Color of Your Burner Flame
Your burner should produce a blue flame when it’s working properly. However, a flickering or yellow flame indicates your fuel may not be burning completely. This both reduces your energy efficiency and indicates an increased risk of carbon monoxide issues with your system. This may be a simple problem with the gas regulator or the burner itself. It could also indicate a problem like a cracked heat exchanger, which likely means you need a new system due to the cost of a replacement.
Soot Around Your Unit
Another common symptom of your furnace not fully consuming its fuel is soot. You’ll notice this around the burning chamber when it’s time to clean your system. In extreme cases, you may also notice it around your vents or on the floor around your unit. The most common cause for significant soot buildup is a cracked heat exchanger. One of our technicians can help you determine the underlying problem and whether you should repair your system or consider a replacement.
Carbon Monoxide Leak
Almost everyone knows that carbon monoxide is a significant health risk and is nearly undetectable without a device to catch it. It’s also one of the most significant risks of using a natural gas or propane-fueled heating system. If your carbon monoxide detector is going off, get your family out of the house and call for help.
If the source of the carbon monoxide turns out to be your heating system, you will likely want to replace it. The most common source of carbon monoxide leaks is a cracked heat exchanger.
Lack of Heating Power
You may notice your heating system is running, but there’s not much heat coming from your vents. There may simply be less air coming from your vents, which indicates an airflow restriction of some kind. In contrast, you may have plenty of air, but it’s just not as warm.
In either case, this may be an issue that’s easily resolved with routine maintenance. A dirty circulating fan or heat exchanger may cause this issue. It may also be indicative of your system turning the corner on its age, heading quickly toward a replacement. If you haven’t had maintenance this year, start there, and let the technician test your system and see if there are any other underlying causes. Most companies charge nearly the same for a maintenance visit as they do for a service call.
You’ve Increased Service Variables
When your system was installed, it should have been sized based on the serviceable area’s square feet. The size also took into consideration other variables such as how many people occupy your home, the size and number of windows, and the height of your ceilings, among other things.
If you’ve made any major changes to your home, your system may no longer be appropriately sized. If you’ve replaced windows with larger ones or added heating to your garage or attic, you may need to upgrade your system.
Trying to run an improperly sized system for your space puts excessive strain on the system and drives up utility costs. If your system is too big, it’ll cause short cycling due to generating too much heat and not effectively circulating it. This also causes excessive strain from constantly starting and stopping and near continual cycling.
Beltway Air Conditioning & Heating is a heating service provider for residents in and around Hanover, MD. Our team of reliable technicians provide both heating and cooling installation, maintenance, and repair in addition to indoor air quality solutions. Call to schedule your consultation with one of our experts to discuss whether it’s time for a new heating system for your home.