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Should You Repair or Replace Your Broken Home Heating System?

September 26, 2016

Should you repair or replace your broken heating system?

photo_12.jpgThere are certain modern conveniences that we all just assume are going to work. Many of us wake up in the morning, put on clean clothes in our warm homes, put our keys in our car's ignition, turn them and the car starts. We move on through our day without thinking about all of the technology that goes into making our lives so comfortable and convenient. Until one of them stops working!

When a furnace, heat pump, or other home heating equipment quits working, it's usually an unexpected hit to the bank account. Should you repair or replace it? The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors that you'll need to weigh for yourself.

Is your current equipment a safety hazard?

The first and most important question you should ask yourself is whether your current heating equipment is a safety hazard to yourself and your family. This is especially important if you have gas heating in your home. Gas furnaces are perfectly safe as long as they are functioning correctly. However, a malfunctioning gas furnace can vent carbon monoxide gas into your home, which cannot be seen or smelled and is a safety hazard. This is why it is extremely important to have a functioning carbon monoxide alarm in your home, as well as yearly maintenance performed on your gas furnace and other gas appliances.

If your gas furnace is a safety hazard and cannot be reasonably repaired to make it safe to use, then you don't really have a choice. It needs to be replaced.

What is the age of your current equipment?

There are a lot of different factors that affect the lifespan of heating equipment, and every piece of equipment is different. However, in the Seattle area we consider 15 years to be the general life expectancy of most heating equipment. If your system is nearing the end of its life expectancy, it may be a good idea to consider replacing it if it requires repairs. The older it is, the more likely you'll need more repairs in the near future. It might be a good idea to forgo the current repair and roll that money into a new system.

What is the repair history of your current equipment?

Even if your equipment isn't technically nearing the end of its estimated life, it may already have an extensive history of breakdowns. Sometimes, especially with certain manufacturers, the manufacturing process doesn't go as planned and the unit comes off the line defective. Or perhaps your system wasn't installed correctly. If you've already had to dump a bunch of money in repairs on your current system, it might be time to consider getting a new one rather than continuing to invest money in a bad piece of equipment.

What is the cost of the repair?

This is a big factor in whether to repair or replace your equipment. If the cost is significant, $800 or more, and the system is in the latter half of its expected life, it may be a good idea to replace it rather than investing a significant amount of money in the current one. In order to determine what is wrong with your current system, and what the cost of the repair would be, heating companies will need to perform a diagnostic, which does have a cost associated with it. So, finding out this information will require an initial investment.

If the system is still young enough to be under the manufacturer's warranty, the warranty can help bring the repair cost down. Depending on your leftover portion of the repair cost, it might be better in this case to consider repairing the equipment. 

How much does replacing your equipment cost?

The answer to this question depends on many factors. Are you sticking with a model that has similar features and efficiency to your current one, or are you planning on upgrading to a higher quality model? Do you have a heat pump, gas furnace, or some other type of system? How many BTU's of heating and/or cooling does your home require? Is there a different type of heating and/or cooling system that would work better for you and your home than what you currently have? All of these questions, plus many others, can be answered by getting an estimate for a new system from a qualified heating company. Most qualified heating companies will provide an estimate for free. 

If you decide to get a free estimate, make sure the heating company(s) you use gather all of the information needed for them to do a proper heat loss calculation. This allows them to know what size of system your home needs, and to properly design a system that will perform optimally for your specific home, as each home is unique.

Can you afford the repair?

You may think that this question should read "can you afford the replacement?" However, most of the time, repair costs are either paid with cash/check or put on a credit card. Typically, the only ways to finance repair costs are to put them on a credit card or a home equity line of credit. New equipment, on the other hand, is usually very easy to finance, as there are many financing programs available, especially for higher efficiency equipment. With certain systems, it is even possible to save more money per month on utility bills than it costs to finance the system! You'll have to decide, based on your own financial situation, if it would be better to pay the repair bill now, or to finance a new system over time.

How long are you planning to live in your current home?

If you are planning on living in your home for 5 more years or longer, it might make sense to put more weight on the replacement option. The long-term investment in a new system makes more sense if you'll be living in the home long enough to enjoy it! If you're planning on moving or selling within the next couple of years, then taking a closer look at the repair option makes sense.

Could you save money with a higher efficiency heating system?

If you are planning on living in the home for several more years at minimum, then you are more likely to be able to reap the savings that higher efficiency systems generate over time in reduced utility costs. In fact, it may make sense to replace older, inefficient equipment with a new high efficiency system even if the old one is still working! If you get a free estimate from us at Evergreen Home Heating and Energy, we can help you determine the estimated return on investment for different equipment options, helping to shed light on your individual situation.

The bottom line. . .

Every situation is unique. You'll have to weigh all of the above factors for yourself and decide what makes the most sense for you. However, you'll likely need some help from a heating company to get all of the information necessary to make an informed decision. We're here to help! Give us a call at 206-763-1744 and we can help you gather all of the information you'll need.

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