Of all the things that you love to shop for, home heating probably isn’t at the top of the list. It might not even make the top 10. But heat is one of your home’s major systems, and this is Massachusetts we’re living in, so it’s important for it function as advertised without costing a fortune to operate it. When it doesn’t, it’s a good idea to think about whether replacement is the best answer.
A new home heating system isn’t cheap, but it can add so much value that you’re glad to make the investment. In some cases, the energy saved pays for the whole system in time. But the tricky part is knowing when to call it quits on what you’ve got. Here are several signs that a replacement is in the foreseeable future.
How Old is Your Home’s Heating System?
First things first. One of the greatest indicators that it’s time to replace your home’s heating system is its age. Even with scrupulous care and maintenance, furnaces, boilers and even heat pumps don’t last forever.
On average, and with a sound maintenance schedule, most home heating starts to decline at around 15 years. Under ideal circumstances, newly manufactured systems can last much longer than that, up to even 30 years, according to Bob Vila. But an existing system that’s around 15 years old now was manufactured before some of those advancements in technology were put into service.
If your system is 10-15 years old, it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll want in a replacement. That’s the stage when mechanical, electrical and electronic issues often begin to surface. If the system has experienced erratic maintenance, time is of the essence.
Do you Have Uncomfortable Hot or Cold Spots?
Most homes have spots where it’s always too cold or too warm. And most homeowners deal with it by closing vents, plugging in a space heater, grabbing a sweater, or closing off rooms altogether. Your home should be comfortable end-to-end. If it’s not, your home heating might be to blame.
Old systems and those in disrepair don’t function the way that they were designed to. Heated air might not reach certain parts of your home. And in others, the heat might be too much to bear. But neither of those is a normal situation that you should have to live with.
A new system might also include ductwork repair or replacement, as that’s also a common cause of hot and cold spots. Duck leaks cause you to lose expensive heated air. And the lack of ductwork dampers can send too much heat into areas where you don’t need it. Dampers are much more effective at regulating airflow and heat than closing vents, which puts undue stress on the system.
Is the Humidity Level in Your Home Uncomfortable?
Winter humidity can be as uncomfortable as summer, just in the opposite way. Where high humidity makes your skin feel sticky and rooms feel stuffy, humidity that’s too low can wreak all sorts of havoc.
Humidity affects the way that your body perceives temperature. That’s why some people talk about dry heat out west and how it’s more tolerable than the hot, humid summer air back east. As it applies to home heating, low humidity can make rooms feel colder than they really are. And that can inspire you to increase the heat, which creates a vicious cycle. The more heat, the less humidity you’ll have in your home. Low humidity can also irritate your eyes and sinuses.
Heating equipment typically cuts humidity, which is why many newer systems have an on-board or aftermarket humidifier. If your home is dry as powder in winter, your heating is probably outdated. You might also have a ductwork leak, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Have You Noticed Higher and Higher Energy Bills?
Winter heating costs can be so high that you fear walking to the mailbox. Energy costs do fluctuate, and sometimes they’re the real culprit. When there’s higher demand, such as during a frigid spell or when supply is low for one reason or another, costs nearly always go up. And in some areas, energy costs are higher during different parts of the day.
However, oddly high home heating bills are also a sign that something’s wrong. As heat systems age, they naturally perform with lower and lower efficiency. That’s even true if you’ve changed the filter and opted in for scheduled maintained on time every time. Everything has a lifespan.
Repairs are a normal part of owning any appliance. But they, too, can indicate a system that’s on its last legs if they happen more often now than ever before. This is an important factor to think about. Some HVAC repairs are fairly simple and don’t cost a fortune. But some, such as certain types of coolant leaks, can really cost you. When you add them up over a year or more, they might make the cost of a new heating system a better financial choice.
Are You Dusting More Often Than Usual?
There are a lot of reasons why homes get oddly dusty. Sometimes it’s nothing but the time of year. That’s apparent in springtime when pollen seems to collect on every surface. But excessive dust is also a reason to eye your home heating system with a bit of suspicion.
Dust can enter the system at different points and for different reasons. If the filter isn’t changed often enough, the dust that clogs it can dislodge little by little and make its way through the ducts, where it lands throughout your home. Unfortunately, this type of dust infiltration can also damage the unit.
Dust can also enter the system through ductwork leaks, and those can happen anywhere from the unit itself to any point where you have a register. But your HVAC technician can perform diagnostics to determine whether there are leaks and how extensive the problem might be.
Is the System Noisy or Noisier Than Before?
Rare is the home heating system that’s quiet as a mouse, but some noises are bad news. Squeals and screeches can do more than give you chills or set your teeth on edge. They might mean that the blower motor belt is damaged. Or a fan might be damaged.
Rattles, bangs and clangs are usually signs that a moving part in the system is broken or about to come loose. Left to continue, noises like these can be a very expensive repair, or they could be the end of the system altogether.
Clicking sounds aren’t always abnormal, but sometimes it’s wise to take them as a warning. Most systems click when they cycle on and off. But Angie’s List reminds that fast or repeated clicking might mean that you’ve got a bad electronic control panel. Short-cycling can also cause repeated clicking. If the system cycles on and off several times an hour, it needs prompt attention. If this short cycling is a new problem, the best approach is to shut it down until a technician can determine the cause, which might be simple or major.
Home heating has come an awfully long way in the past few years. If your system is older than 10, you might be in for a major surprise once you come to a decision to replace it. Newer models, whether they’re boilers, furnaces, or ductless heat pumps, use less energy to provide better comfort. And that makes you and your bank account feel great. The situation is a win/win.
No one wants to make a large investment when it’s unwarranted. But replacing bad, old or worn-out home heating equipment yields great rewards. Trust your instincts. If something seems out of whack, there’s a good chance that you’re right, even if you don’t know the source of the problem. You live with it, after all, so you’re a good judge of lurking problems.
If there aren’t any obvious signs, consider how long your heating components have been in service. Ten years with good maintenance is usually OK. At 15 years, it’s a good idea to watch it closely. If it’s older than that, or if you notice that anything isn’t working like you’d prefer, maybe it’s time to get in touch with the HVAC experts at Rodenhiser.
We have helped Massachusetts homeowners live more comfortably for over 85 years, and we’re still providing great service. Homeowners in the Route 495/ 128 area communities know our name, and so should you. Contact us today for HVAC service or to talk about your options with a whole new system.