Your furnace is likely one of the most expensive appliances in your home. It can be expensive to repair or replace when there is an issue so people often scrutinize a furnace a lot when they are purchasing a home or having a new system installed.
One of the most common questions I get is, how long does a furnace last? In this article I’m going to explore that questions and help you get some practical advice for prolonging the life of your HVAC system.
How Long Does a Furnace Actually Last?
My favorite analogy to use when I answer this question is comparing your furnace to a classic car.
The fast answer to how long will a furnace last is, it can last as long as you want it to. What I mean by that is, there is not date at which a furnace needs to be replaced entirely.
Taking the classic car example, we still see cars on the road from time to time that were made 40, 50, 60, even 90 years ago right? Along the way, those cars needed repairs because no car (and especially older ones) was designed to last forever.
People simply fixed what was wrong with those cars to keep them driving on the road. Some of them probably needed way more repairs than others but the point is, someone wanted to keep that car running so they did.
The same is true for a furnace. It can last as long as you want to keep fixing it and there are really no scenarios (other than a catastrophic accident) where you have to replace your entire system. Typically when there is an issue with a furnace, it’s one part or one assembly of parts that has gone bad and needs replaced.
When is it good to get a new furnace?
There are two primary reasons that people replace their furnace systems.
1. It’s not safe to operate.
2. It’s not practical to repair your furnace (it’s no longer reliable, it’s too expensive, etc).
You can technically keep a furnace as long as you want however there are some scenarios where repairing it may not be practical. For example a cracked heat exchanger is a big issue because it causes carbon monoxide to leak out into your home. The furnace will still function as it should however that deadly gas will be leaking out.
In that case, it makes more sense to replace the unit because swapping out a heat exchanger may be more expensive. If the unit is older, new heat exchangers may not be available for it.
Any other time there is a safety issue or the furnace is just not repairable is a good time to replace the entire unit. Examples of this might be a fire in the home that has damaged the unit, a storm or other act of nature that has extensively damaged the unit, or an earth quake. Anything that has caused so much damage that it isn’t practical to repair the unit.
Your furnace may also be at an age where parts are continually breaking down making it unreliable. If you live in an area where it’s essential to have your furnace working and frequent service interruptions are dangerous, replacement may be a good idea.
What are the benefits of replacing my furnace?
Going back to our car analogy, there are benefits to getting a new car such as technological advancements. Older vehicles were made when we knew less about the air/fuel mixture in the engine, about aero dynamic design, and other fuel-saving measures.
The same is true for furnaces. An older furnace may not burn natural gas as efficiently as a newer model. Aside from any safety issues, if you have an older furnace and you find yourself repairing it a lot, a newer model may come with the added benefit of lower cost of operation.
You may also get to take advantage of more modern management add-ons like programmable or internet connected thermostats, more robust climate control settings, and quieter operation.
So that’s the truth about how long a furnace lasts. If you take care of it, do routine maintenance, and continue to fix it, you can theoretically make a furnace last a lifetime.
Of course, that may not always be the case and replacing your furnace has a ton of great benefits. The best course of action is to put safety as a priority for your heating system and then make financially-driven decisions after that.