How to Know When Furnace Repairs Are Worth the Cost

How to Know When Furnace Repairs Are Worth the Cost

Furnaces can experience a variety of different issues that can impact how well they heat and how much energy they use. There are also some issues that can prevent your furnace from producing any heat or cause it to not run at all. If your furnace is experiencing any of these problems, the first thing you’ll want to do is determine whether it makes more sense to repair the defect or replace your heating system. Many furnace repairs are fairly simple and inexpensive, but some major repairs can cost almost as much as buying a new unit. With that in mind, here is everything you need to know to help you determine when repairs are worth it or when you’re better off going with furnace replacement.

Furnace Age and Condition

The age and condition of your current furnace are generally the most important things to consider when deciding between repair and replacement. Furnaces will typically last for somewhere around 15 to 20 years. With annual maintenance, you may be able to get as much as 25 to 30 years out of the unit, especially in warmer climates like California where the furnace will get much less annual use.

That being said, it still usually doesn’t make sense to undertake any major repairs if your furnace is 15 years or older. While repairing the furnace will get it working again, you’re still usually better off to replace the unit instead since there is always a decent chance it will fail once more and need to be replaced within a few years.

If your furnace is still in good condition and working effectively, then you may want to consider repairing it even if it is approaching the end of its lifespan. As long as the repairs won’t cost more than a few hundred dollars, fixing the unit should allow you to put off the high cost of replacing it for at least a few years more.

At Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air, we occasionally encounter situations where someone in the Sacramento area has been using the same furnace for more than 30 years. In this situation, we generally always recommend replacing the unit instead of repairing it. Older furnaces are extremely inefficient compared to more modern units. If your furnace was installed before 1992 when minimum efficiency standards went into place, it may only be around 70% efficient, whereas most new units will be at least 80% to 90% efficient.

Energy Efficiency and Effectiveness

As furnaces age, their effectiveness and energy efficiency tend to decrease, and this is another thing you’ll want to take into consideration. Annual maintenance can help to prevent this, but there will always come a time when the furnace’s effectiveness and energy efficiency begin to suffer. If you find that your heating costs are continually increasing from year to year and it takes longer for the furnace to heat your home, you are generally well advised to replace it with a new unit that will heat more effectively and use less energy.

Warranty Considerations

Virtually all new furnaces come with a manufacturer’s warranty that covers any necessary repairs due to either a manufacturing defect or a faulty component. The typical warranty is around 10 years, and it will be in force as long as the warranty is registered within 30 to 90 days of the furnace being installed. If the warranty is not registered in time, many manufacturers will only warrant the unit for five years instead. Most furnaces also come with an additional warranty that covers the heat exchanger, and this warranty is often valid for up to 20 years from the date of installation.

If your furnace is still under warranty, it is obviously best to first see whether the warranty will cover the necessary repairs. If a furnace technician determines that the issue is related to a defect or faulty component, then all you will have to pay for is the labor costs and not any replacement parts. Unfortunately, most common furnace issues are instead related to neglect and improper maintenance or general wear and tear, and these issues will generally never be covered under the warranty. That being said, it’s still usually wiser to have the unit repaired since it may still last for another five to 10 years or more.

In addition to the manufacturer’s warranty, more and more homeowners are also choosing to purchase home warranties. These warranties usually cover most of your major appliances and systems, including your HVAC system. The best part about these warranties is that they will cover the cost to repair any issues related to wear and tear, unlike the manufacturer’s warranty. However, they will still not cover the costs if it is determined that the issue was caused by neglect or a lack of maintenance.

Cost of Repair Versus Remaining Lifespan

The best way to determine whether it is worth having your furnace repaired is to compare the cost of the repair to how many more years you expect the equipment to last. This process requires doing a bit of math and breaking down the total cost of the furnace over its expected lifespan.

The average gas furnace costs somewhere around $2,200 and should last for approximately 15 years. Breaking this down, it means that the total cost of the furnace is around $150 a year for every year of its expected life. Let’s say that your furnace is eight years old and needs a repair that is not covered by its warranty. If the repair only costs around $500, it makes sense to do it since the furnace still has close to $1,000 worth of life left. However, if the furnace is 12 years old, then the repair probably wouldn’t be practical.

Why Replacing a Cracked Heat Exchanger Seldom Makes Sense

A cracked heat exchanger is the biggest issue a furnace can face and also the one issue that generally never makes sense to repair. When a furnace runs, the metal heat exchanger always expands slightly due to the high temperature. Once the furnace shuts off, it will then contract again. This process of expansion and contraction causes wear and tear on the heat exchanger and can eventually cause it to crack. Heat exchangers can also crack due to air supply issues or defects that allow too much heat to build up inside the furnace.

If the heat exchanger cracks due to a defect, then the cost of replacing it should be covered by warranty. If it cracks simply due to wear and tear or any other reason, then you will need to pay for replacing it out of pocket. In this case, you are generally always best to buy a new furnace instead of replacing the heat exchanger even if your furnace is only a few years old. The reason is that replacing the heat exchanger usually costs at least $2,000 or more, or close to the same price as a brand-new furnace.

Sacramento’s HVAC Experts

If your furnace is experiencing any issues, the experts at Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air can help you determine if repair or replacement is the better option. We repair all makes and models of furnaces, and we can also help with installation and replacement. Our team also installs and services air conditioners, boilers, ductless mini-splits, heat pumps, mechanical ventilation systems, thermostats, zone control systems, and a range of indoor air quality equipment for both residential and commercial HVAC systems. Besides that, we can help with any of your plumbing needs. To schedule a furnace inspection or any other HVAC or plumbing service, give us a call today.

What You Need to Know About the California Seer Changes in 2023

What You Need to Know About the California Seer Changes in 2023

The DOE (Department of Energy) has recently announced some changes to residential energy efficiency standards. This mostly affects the SEER ratings for heating and AC systems, with the DOE increasing the SEER ratings for these units for the upcoming year of 2023. These new regulations might affect your options if you’re due for a replacement heating or AC system. The regulations may also affect the price of the unit since the cost of these regulation changes oftentimes falls on the consumer. Here’s everything you’ll need to know about the DOE energy efficiency standard changes and what to keep in mind if you’re looking for a new heating or AC system in California.

What Are SEER Ratings and How Are They Changing?

SEER stands for “seasonal energy efficiency rating.” Unlike normal EER, which measures energy efficiency primarily during peak temperatures, SEER gets a more general energy-efficiency rating by looking at the entire cooling season and temperature fluctuations. Think of it as the difference between measuring how much energy your AC used during the hottest day in July (EER) versus how much energy your AC used on average over the entire month of July (SEER). EER ratings were used to measure peak system usage each year. However, this was eventually changed to the SEER system as tracking the average energy usage gave a more accurate indication of how energy efficient a unit was.

There are different regulations for heating units, AC units, and mini-split systems. The heating system rating is being raised nationwide from 13 to 14, with the higher number being more energy efficient. Things are a little bit different with AC systems. The SEER rating for AC systems is changing on a regional basis. The United States is split up into three separate regions: North, South/Southeast, and Southwest (which is the region California is part of). The North region is changing from a minimum SEER rating of 13 to a rating of 14, while the South/Southeast and Southwest regions are changing to a minimum SEER rating of 15.

The regions also differ in how they determine which older systems are no longer meeting the new requirements. The North region bases compliance on manufacture date. Any non-compliant equipment manufactured prior to Jan 1, 2023, can be sold and installed. The South/Southeast and Southwest regions are based on installation date. This requires that all non-compliant equipment be installed prior to January 1, 2023, and any remaining non-compliant equipment needs to be sent to states that fall under the North region after the new year. While these regulations have more of an impact on manufacturers and installers of AC and heating systems, it will limit the availability of some older systems that don’t meet the new requirements in some states. You also might end up having to spend more money thanks to this change, mostly because the only systems that will be available are newer and more expensive ones.

What’s the Cost?

Changes in national regulations almost always come with a price increase, and that price increase usually lands on the customer. There’s no need to panic, though. If you are in the market for a new system, you can rest assured that despite the 15-20% price hike to cover the cost of newer technology or more up-to-date AC or heating system manufacturing, you’ll recoup the cost. This is thanks to the money you’ll be saving on your electricity bill due to the lower energy consumption in the long term. If you already have an AC or heating system that works well and doesn’t require much upkeep or maintenance, you probably don’t have to worry too much about the new DOE regulation changes.

These regulations are strictly for new units being installed approaching January 1st. With how energy efficient newer appliances have become in recent years though, it might be time to consider purchasing a new unit and saving some money on your utilities. This is especially true if your unit has a SEER rating of 10 or below.

If you do need to get a new AC or heating system, keeping these new SEER ratings and requirements in mind might be helpful. Knowing the minimum SEER rating for your region can ensure you’re getting a unit that is up to par with what should be the minimum standard for energy efficiency. You’ll also be purchasing a unit that is more environmentally friendly and one that has more upgrades.

What Isn’t Covered by the Change?

While these changes apply mostly to AC units, heating units, and mini-split systems, there are a few types of units these new regulations do not apply to. If you are looking to purchase a hot water heating system or if your home relies on a furnace for heating, these requirements do not apply. In this case, you’re free to purchase whatever system best suits your needs.

How Do You Find the SEER Ratings?

SEER ratings tend to be great selling points for manufacturers, retailers, and installers that sell and install AC and heating systems. Larger systems are usually on the more expensive side, so being able to emphasize the reduced energy costs and a more energy-efficient system can help make such a large purchase easier to swallow for customers. Because it’s such a big selling point, most manufacturers list the SEER rating prominently in the item details online. If you’re shopping in person, manufacturers will list the SEER rating on a big yellow sticker that details the average savings per year the unit will save you in utility bills and other costs.

Next Steps in Upgrading or Buying a New System

While knowing about the SEER requirement changes can definitely help decide what system is best for your home, be it heating, AC, or a mini-split system, it is always best to speak with professional technicians to get more information. These changes affect your system quite a bit, and technicians will be equipped to determine if your current system is in need of an upgrade, what kind of system would work best for your home’s layout and heating or cooling needs, as well as how best to work within your budget to get the biggest bang for your buck. Professional technicians will also be able to set up an inspection of your home and help with planning the installation. In addition, they can provide a reasonable time frame for when the work will be completed by and what to expect in that time frame.

If you’re considering upgrading your heating or AC system or even just have questions about what is involved, call Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air to discuss your options. We can provide all of the information you need before purchasing a unit. Getting an expert opinion is always worth the effort when planning any kind of home improvement or installation project. Let us help you make the best choice for your Sacramento home.

When you need heating or cooling services in Sacramento, CA, contact our team at Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air. We also provide plumbing services as well as boilers, UV lights, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, zone control systems, and more. Our team is Navien Level 2 Certified, and we have an A+ rating from the BBB. We’re also EPA and Energy Star certified.