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Some things to consider when deciding whether to repair or replace your furnace this season

By Ryan Houlehan 
Special to the NKytribune

As the weather turns cooler and area residents turn up the heat, they also begin to experience issues with their furnaces.

While regular maintenance can certainly help reduce the risk of costly repairs or replacements, it may be time to consider replacing your unit if you find yourself face-to-face with a hefty repair bill.

A lot goes into the decision to repair or replace a furnace. Here are some things you should consider before making the decision:

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Age of Unit – If your furnace is less than 12 years old and has been well maintained, it’s likely that a repair can fix the problem at hand. Even if you have a unit that’s 12 years or older that hasn’t experienced significant breakdowns, it may be time to consider replacing your unit anyway, and here’s why:

If you’re having to shop for a new unit during an emergency, you typically won’t have the time to make an informed decision or get a second opinion or estimate from another company. This leaves you having to settle for the first estimate you receive which could cause you to spend much more than if you had spent time shopping for various options. 

Energy Efficiency – The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) collects data on energy consumption, which it publishes in the State Energy Data Systems (SEDS). According to the most recent SEDS reports, the average American spends $3,052 on energy for a full year. However, Kentucky is #4 on the SEDS list of top per-capita consumers by state, spending an average of $3,585 per person for energy over the course of a year — more than $500 above the average.

Over the years, your furnace loses its energy efficiency as it ages, especially if the unit has not been properly maintained. If you notice a big jump in your energy bills this year, it may be time to say goodbye to your unit for a more energy-efficient model. All of the additional money you’re now putting into your energy bill each month could be used to purchase a newer, more efficient unit.

Potential Carbon Monoxide Leaks – If your unit is an oil-fired model that runs on fuel oil and is emitting a yellow or flickering flame, this could be an indicator for potential carbon monoxide leaks. Soot around the furnace, the absence of a draft up your chimney, excess moisture around the home, or rust on the vent pipe on the outside of the unit could all be signs of a potential issue.

Even if you don’t have an oil-fired unit, all units run the risk of developing cracks in the heat exchanges as they age. Be sure that your carbon monoxide detectors are checked regularly and if they go off or your family starts to exhibit flu like symptoms turn your unit off, exit the home and call a technician immediately. If there is a leak, your unit will need to likely be replaced.

Lack of Humidity in the Air – It’s important to monitor “relevant” humidity, which is directly correlated with comfort and temperatures in the home. During the winter, furnaces pump out dry hot air. However, if moisture is added to the air through a humidifier, temperatures increase slightly in the space – which means thermostats can be turned down leading to a reduction in energy costs.

If you notice that the air in your home feels dry or is causing things like cracked woodwork, bloody noses, dry throats or static shocks, then it’s very likely your furnace is to blame. A newer unit can help provide a more comfortable living situation with a built-in humidifier.

Deciding whether to repair or replace a unit can be stressful.

Always do your research to ensure you have the necessary information you need to make an informed decision that’s best for your family and budget. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion if the first estimate to replace your unit seems high.

Planning ahead can help ensure that your home stays safe and warm through the colder months.

Ryan Houlehan is the customer experience manager for Arlinghaus Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning.

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