These days, money is tight for everyone. Many of us are putting off vacations or cutting down on trips to the mall or restaurant to save a few dollars.
But if your furnace isn’t working probably, it’s not a problem you can just wish away… or put it off until another day. Certainly not in a winter city like Calgary.
Replacing a furnace isn’t cheap. Depending on the size, make, and model, it can run between $5500 and $7500 for a mid-range high-efficiency unit (including installation). However, in many cases, a qualified professional can remedy the problem with a simple (and less costly) repair.
So the question is: Do I need to repair or replace my furnace?
Naturally, it’s hard to provide a definitive answer without inspecting the furnace. Instead, we’ll cover some basic issues that can be repaired and explain when a replacement might be the best solution.
How long do furnaces typically last? What can go wrong?
Typically, a homeowner can expect to get at least twenty solid years out of a modern, brand-name high-efficiency furnace.
Furnaces are mechanical devices with a lot of different components and moving parts. Which means they are subject to wear and tear. Regular tune-up and maintenance service can help extend furnace life (some furnaces will still keep pumping out the heat after 20+ years).
Several common signs may point to a problem.
- Your home is not warming up when you turn up the thermostat, or it is taking a while to get up to your set temperature
- An unusual noise (a squeal, a knock or a rattle)
- Your furnace blower is turning off and on in short intervals
- You notice a burning smell
- Your furnace shuts off entirely from time to time and then starts working again (this often goes unnoticed until it is -15 °C or colder}
The first thing to do is to book a visit from a furnace repair professional to assess the problem and get your furnace running as soon as possible. (Fortunately, furnace specialists like Advanpro offer 24-7 emergency repair service.)
What common furnace issues can be fixed with a repair?
Sometimes, it can be as simple as replacing a faulty thermostat, a worn flame sensor or a deteriorating blower motor belt (which can be the cause of those screeches). The filter may also be plugged, requiring replacement. Or the ignitor may be damaged.
These are all relatively simple repairs that can be done quickly and typically for less than $300 all-in (parts and labour included).
Motor issues may be a bit more serious. Mid and high-efficiency furnaces have two motors. The Blower Motor is responsible for powering the blower fan, which pushes the hot air through your home. The Inducer or Combustion Motor provides the furnace with fresh combustion air. The good news is that either of these motors is generally in stock locally and be replaced relatively quickly.
Motors are generally not repaired, as this is time-consuming and generally more expensive than simply replacing them. The average replacement cost can range between $600 and $2,000. On the higher end of the range are ECM Motors, which are found on newer high-efficiency furnaces with variable blower speed outputs.
When is a furnace replacement necessary?
As a furnace gets older, repair costs can start to add up. Components with movable parts (such as ignitors, motors, gas valves and control boards) will begin to wear. It becomes a question of cost vs. value. You need to ask: Do I spend money on one component which has failed when my aging furnace has other aging wear components which may need to be addressed again a few months or years down the road?
Another thing to consider is the expected lifespan of your furnace. For a mid-efficiency model, it is generally 15-20 years. At this stage, rather than spending money on repairs (and throwing good money after bad), replacing the unit with a high-efficiency furnace makes economic sense. Not only will you save on energy bills, but your new furnace will also typically come with a 10-year parts and labour warranty. A furnace repair professional can advise you based on an in-person inspection.
If you notice a problem with your furnace, address it immediately.
If you experience any of the warning signs listed above, our advice is to call a furnace repair company to set up an appointment right away.
Also, if the furnace stops working outside regular service hours, most companies will charge an emergency after-hours premium. It can be harder to get an available technician. And in some cases, the required parts may not be available until the next business day or longer.
What if I can’t afford to replace my furnace?
Most of us would struggle to find thousands of dollars to cover a major household expenditure. But did you know that many of the larger furnace companies (including Advanpro) offer the ability to finance a new furnace? So instead of a large upfront sum, you can break it down into manageable monthly payments.
As mentioned early, getting regular furnace tune-ups is a preventive measure that can identify and address minor issues before they turn into bigger (potentially more costly) problems.