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What Is The Lifespan Of A Furnace?

Normally, a furnace stays in service for 20 years. But, there are plenty of exceptions to that rule. Most make it at least 15 years, but others only make it 10 or so. However, others have been up and running for three decades. 
As you can imagine, there are a lot of different things that will affect the lifespan of your furnace. That ranges from your location to the model you chose and what you do with it, and how well you take care of it.

What affects a furnace’s lifespan? 

One of the biggest factors that determine how long you’ll keep your furnace is which one you choose. The better the model, the longer it lasts. Of course, that also can mean investing in a quality unit. But, that’s not the only thing that makes a difference. You should also consider: 
  • The climate where you live
  • The size and strength of the model
  • The work and care you put into it
We’ll get into the maintenance part a little later. For now, let’s take a look at the weather. Specifically, how cold does it get in your hometown?
An HVAC system needs to work harder in a colder region of the country than a normal one. It’s like how putting more miles on a car makes it break down faster. 

Now, Western NY isn’t the coldest part of the country. But towns between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario sure aren’t as warm as other places in the Northeast. The greater Rochester area rarely gets above freezing in the winter. By January and February, it can get down to below twenty degrees regularly. 
So, it would make sense to just get a really powerful model, right? That way it can do the job easily, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work like that. 
A furnace that’s too big for your house will actually do the job too well. What happens is that it blasts a whole lot of hot air at once. It quickly heats up the house, and the unit shuts off. 
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An HVAC system works better when it stays on longer. That way it maintains a more consistent temperature. When the system’s too big, the temperature keeps dropping because the system doesn’t stay on. Then, all that extra wear and tear from stopping and starting takes its toll on the parts. 
Meanwhile, all that going from hot to cold then back to hot again can stress the parts. Then you end up with a cracked heat exchanger, which is essentially a death knell for the furnace.  
And, of course, going with one that’s too small puts you back to overworking it. The unit will fail prematurely from all that extra wear and tear.

How can I make my HVAC system last longer?  

Proper care and regular maintenance is the ticket to getting the maximum life out of your system. There are things you can do yourself and a few you’ll need professionals for. 
Start off with an annual inspection. That’s when an HVAC tech inspects the whole system before you turn it on for the cold weather. They’ll clean the unit, lubricate any moving parts and replace anything that’s worn out or broken. This is like changing the oil and getting a tune-up in your car. Proper maintenance on your vehicle makes the engine run smooth and the car lasts for a longer time. That’s pretty much what you're doing when you get your HVAC system checked out every fall. 
There are also things you can do yourself to keep your furnace running for years and years. The easiest one is to regularly change out the air filter.
That little screen goes a long way toward stopping dust and debris from getting into the system and mucking it up. But, all that stuff sticks to the filter itself. Leave it too long, and then the filter stops air from passing through it also. 
Once that happens, the system has to work harder to circulate the air. And, you know what that extra work leads to. 
Likewise, make sure nothing is blocking the vents all around your house. When air can’t pass through the ductwork properly, the blower begins running slower. Then, it won’t pull in enough cool air for the heat exchanger. When that happens, it can get too hot and crack. 
So, don’t block any vents with furniture or anything else. And, avoid closing them whenever possible.
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How do I know a furnace is breaking down? 

Of course, it’s inevitable that your furnace will break down. If the unit is more than 10 years old, it’s time to start watching for warning signs. Sometimes, you can get a little more life out of it with a little care. Or, you can at least start making plans to replace it so you don’t have to take care of it in a hurry. Here’s what to watch for: 
  1. The unit needs more repairs than before
  2. The house isn’t as warm as it should be
  3. Energy bills are getting higher
  4. There’s soot and the flame is discolored
If you’ve had to get your unit fixed more often over the past two years, it may be time to start thinking about a new one. 
A telltale sign is having to fix it a lot more often. If your appliance is failing a lot, especially over two or more winters, it may be time to think about getting a new one. 
You may also notice your house isn’t getting as warm anymore. At the same time, your energy bills are going up. What’s happening is, the system is working a lot harder to keep up. That takes more energy. But it just can’t do it anymore. 
Finally, you may be able to get some clues from a simple inspection yourself. Listen for any weird noises or odd smells. And, check the flame. If it’s any color but blue, something’s wrong. The same goes for finding a lot of soot near the unit. 
If you keep an eye out and keep on top of any problems, you can make your furnace last for years to come!
Contact us to see how we can help you keep your furnace up and running for as long as possible. 
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