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7 Clues That It’s Time to Replace Your HVAC System

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Replacing your HVAC system is not a decision to be taken lightly. After all, replacing the system or even just one of its major components is no cheap repair job. However, it can be a wise move financially to make that purchase if your older system is underperforming or costing you an excessive amount of money to repair.

If you suspect that it might be a good idea to replace your old HVAC system, here are some signs that the time has probably come. Think of these as the “seven deadly sins” of an old HVAC system.

1. The repairs are getting too costly.

What does “too costly” look like in HVAC terms? Here is an example: say your air conditioner has broken down a few times, and you’ve finally reached the point at which the repair costs are more than half the cost of a new air conditioning unit. When the repair costs are more than half the cost of a new unit, that is generally considered too costly.

2. Your energy bills keep increasing year over year.

It’s normal to notice changes in your monthly energy bills as the seasons change, with a noticeable spike in summer and winter.

To see whether or not your bills are increasing over time, look at your energy costs for the same month over the past few years. The monthly costs should be about the same. If you notice that the costs keep increasing year over year for the same month, as well as for other months when compared year over year, it's a sign that your system is losing its efficiency.

3. Your home can’t reach a consistent temperature.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t get comfortable or can’t get the temperature right in your home? This might be due to a thermostat problem or a separate issue with your HVAC system, but the inability to reach a consistent temperature is one of the common traits of an HVAC system that’s getting up in years. The issue occurs oftentimes because the aging HVAC system lacks the power to deliver air consistently throughout your home.

4. Your home’s indoor air quality is getting worse.

Your HVAC system has a major impact on your home’s indoor air quality and ventilation. The system plays a role in controlling humidity, as well as removing dirt, dander, dust, and other debris and irritants from your indoor air supply. When your system loses efficiency, it also loses its ability to perform this role as effectively as it once did. Signs of this might be a quicker accumulation of dust in your home than you’re used to seeing.

While being less effective at improving your indoor air quality as it once was, it’s also possible for your aging HVAC system to worsen your air quality by introducing mold spores and increased humidity through your air ducts. Be on the lookout for any mold or mildew growth in your home, especially if it feels like the humidity is higher than normal.

5. The system is giving off strange smells.

From time to time, you might notice a gas smell when you turn on the furnace, which is the result of dust burning off in your ductwork. This is fairly common and goes away after a few minutes.

However, there are certain smells that your HVAC might give off that require a professional inspection as soon as possible:

  • Rotten egg: This is most often caused by a natural gas leak, which can be very dangerous.

  • Burning/electrical: This can have various causes, such as a motor that’s burning out or bad wiring. To be on the safe side and prevent any electrical fires, a professional must be contacted.

  • Oil: As with the burning/electrical smell, this smell can have various causes that vary in how hazardous they are, the worst being a clogged burner.

While a repair for one of these things alone may not warrant an entire system replacement, keep in mind that the cost of repairs can add up while you could be using that money toward a new system.

6. The system is making strange noises.

Although you probably hear it whenever your AC or furnace turns on, it should run quietly enough to not be a noticeable disturbance. As HVAC components get older, you might hear them start to make grinding or squealing sounds that they did not make before. When you notice the sounds start to occur, it’s important to get your system checked by a professional.

7. The system is getting up in years.

No matter how well you maintain your system or how often you get it serviced, at some point, your HVAC system’s components are going to give out due to old age, if nothing else. Here are the typical lifespans for the most common HVAC system components:

  • Air Conditioning Unit: 10-15 years

  • Furnace: 15-20 years

  • Heat Pump: 16 years

  • Thermostat: 35 years (although these are often replaced sooner to take advantage of advancements in technology, such as smart thermostats)

Still Hesitant to Take the Plunge?

It’s entirely understandable to feel some reluctance when it comes to making a purchasing decision like replacing your HVAC system or one of its more expensive components. However, while it may seem pricey in the short run, it’s important to consider how much you could be saving on energy bills by replacing your old system with one that’s more energy-efficient. For instance, if you upgrade to a high-efficiency air conditioner, you can see as much as a 20 percent reduction in your energy costs.

In addition, if you delay the replacement longer than necessary, you may be spending quite a bit in repair costs that could’ve been going towards the purchase of a more energy-efficient system all along. When your system starts showing some of the seven signs discussed above, talk to an HVAC professional about your options to determine a good long-term solution for your home and your finances.

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