How Efficient Is a 20-Year-Old Furnace? HVAC Tips for Sacramento Homeowners

how efficient is a 20 year old furnaceI recently heard a question from a homeowner that sounded a little bit to me like it was the setup for a fun joke: “How efficient is my 20-year-old furnace?” I halfway expected him to follow up with something like, “So inefficient that it runs like Forrest Gump!” (Hey, HVAC humor isn’t for everyone.) But this homeowner’s question wasn’t a joke; it was a serious inquiry about an important topic that most residents of Sacramento should know more about.

So, how efficient is a 20-year-old furnace in Sacramento where many of our homes were built decades ago and have had to have their modern HVAC systems retrofitted? Well, the answer is that those 20-year-old furnaces are not very efficient at all. In fact, 20 years is actually toward the end of the life of any furnace, even those that have been properly retrofitted. Furnaces wear down over time, becoming increasingly more inefficient. If yours has gotten to the 20-year mark, there’s a very good chance that it needs to be replaced.

That’s why I want to talk about two important topics for Sacramento homeowners to be well aware of when it comes to heating and cooling services for your old furnace: signs your 20-year-old furnace has become inefficient and signs that it needs to be replaced. You see, an inefficient furnace can break down unexpectedly or burn through energy without generating the proper amount of heat, really driving up your heating bill. I’m sure you’d agree, these are both scenarios Sacramento homeowners want to avoid. Here’s how.

How Efficient Is a 20-Year Old-Furnace? Stats on Efficiency

furnace efficiency of an old furnaceSimply put, the most efficient way to answer a question about furnace efficiency is to take a look at some stats.

Here are a couple of key numbers to know:

  • 20-year-old furnaces have an annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE, of 78% or less, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. AFUE is the basic energy efficiency rating system used in the HVAC industry. A 78% AFUE furnace uses 78% of the energy it consumes to heat the air that makes it into your home, while the other whopping 22% is lost to inefficiency.
  • On average, a new furnace has a 95% AFUE, making it roughly 17% more efficient than a 20-year-old one.

How Efficient Is a 20-Year-Old Furnace? Signs to Tell If Yours Is Wearing Out

If you’re a mechanical guy like me, you tend to form some strange relationships with your trusty cars and appliances. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit but, looking back, I think some of the saddest moments in my life have been saying goodbye to cars or furnaces that served me well over the years. AIn every one of these cases, there were always signs warning me that my old friend was getting long in the tooth and wouldn’t be with me much longer.

Furnaces have a way of telling us that their time in our lives is just about up. I should note here, too, that these are the signs that your furnace is still working, but isn’t as efficient as it should be, which are different than signs that your furnace needs repair.

Here are some common signs that your furnace has become inefficient:

  • Your gas bill is higher than in previous years: This is the headliner here. If your gas bill is higher than it has been in the past, then there’s a very good chance that your furnace has dipped in its efficiency. See, gas bills tend to rise without explanation when a furnace has to start running more to generate the same amount of heat, which is practically the definition of being inefficient.
  • You’re making frequent service requests: How often have you and I seen each other in the past couple of years? If it’s more than for maintenance or a single repair, this is another sign that your furnace is running inefficiently, leading it to need frequent repairs.
  • You feel colder or warmer in certain rooms: Uneven heating is the final sign that your furnace is running inefficiently, wasting fuel, and potentially raising your gas bill. Now, to be clear, uneven heating happens to new furnaces as well, but it’s a far more common sign that an older furnace has become inefficient.

Signs to Tell If Your Inefficient 20-Year-Old Furnace Should Be Replaced

So, your old friend has gone past just being inefficient to having a full blown break down. It’s okay, mourn for a while, but then realize that your furnace has done its best and served you well. The fact of the matter is, though, that you need to get a new furnace.

Here are a few of the most common signs that your 20-year-old furnace needs to be replaced:

  • Old age: This one is the simplest. Simply being old (and 20 is definitely old for a furnace) is a clear sign that you will have to replace your furnace soon.
  • The burner flame has turned yellow: This is one of the most serious problems an older furnace can have because it could be a sign that your furnace has started to produce carbon monoxide. This is a very dangerous situation, one that should have you calling a trained professional to replace your furnace ASAP.
  • The thermostat can’t keep up: Another clear sign that your furnace needs to be replaced is that you can’t get comfortable. No matter where you set the thermostat, you’re always cold in your house. Heck, your furnace may even be blowing cool air. These signs can also apply to some minor issues, but if your furnace is of a certain age, it’s a pretty clear indication it’s time to invest in a new, more efficient model.

Don’t worry too much, though, if you’re realizing that the years have flown by and your furnace is 20 years old. Trained HVAC professionals, like the ones here at Bell Brothers, can make your furnace replacement process as painless as possible, helping you find a model that’s exactly right for your Sacramento home, regardless of its age or when it was built.

There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a new furnace: size, model, and financing. But, here at Bell Brothers, we have years of experience helping homeowners get a furnace they’ll love. You’ve lost an old friend, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out and make a new one.

At Bell Brothers, we believe in the whole-home approach to health and efficiency. Our trained HVAC professionals would not only be happy to give your furnace a little love, we’d love to make sure your windows, insulation, and ducts are also working efficiently to keep your house warm this winter. Contact us today to schedule your fall furnace servicing.

Wondering how to finance a new furnace, or maybe even new windows and plumbing? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.

Image courtesy Artazum LLC