Should I Repair or Replace My Furnace? Factors & Costs
Deciding whether to repair or replace your furnace can be stressful. In this article, we’ll go over factors that can help you decide whether it’s time to repair or replace your furnace.
It’s the last thing you want on a cold winter night: no heat. But what do you do when your furnace stops working?
Maybe you try to troubleshoot it yourself. But that can be tricky if you aren’t familiar with HVAC equipment.
Maybe you call your HVAC partner. With their training and expertise, surely they can fix it, right?
Unfortunately, the service technician has bad news: your furnace needs a major repair to get up and running again.
That’s where I come in. As someone with nearly two decades as an HVAC service technician, I’ve worked with thousands of customers who are trying to make this decision.
In this article, I’ll break down the decision the way we do for our customers. We’ll discuss the cost of the repair for your current system as well as the age of your current system. We’ll also discuss the cost of a replacement furnace.
By the end of this article, you’ll have the information you need to decide between replacing and repairing your furnace.
Repairing vs. Replacing Your Furnace
It’s rarely easy to decide whether you should repair or replace your furnace. And while a service technician can make suggestions, the decision is ultimately up to you.
I view HVAC equipment as my patient -- it’s my job to figure out what the equipment needs and how to get it back on its feet again. But I also recognize that it doesn’t always make sense to repair your furnace.
From a service technician’s perspective, whether you should repair or replace your furnace depends on a few factors:
- The cost of the repair vs. the cost of a replacement
- The age of your system
- Your budget and comfort goals
How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Furnace?
The cost of a furnace repair can change based on a few factors, including:
- The cost of the replacement part
- The amount of time it takes to make the repair
When properly installed and maintained, a modern furnace can last 15-20 years or longer. But within your furnace’s lifespan, you may have to replace or repair some of its parts.
We can divide these parts into two categories: minor furnace repairs and major furnace repairs. We’ll talk about the costs of these repairs as well as the lifespan of each part and the time it takes to repair the issues below.
In some cases, a repair involves replacing a part. Sometimes, repairing a specific part isn’t cost-effective. While the final decision is up to you, your HVAC service technician should be able to provide recommendations based on your situation.
Minor furnace repairs are less intensive. These repairs typically take less time to repair and may be less expensive than some major repairs.
You typically won’t replace your furnace due to a minor repair.
Minor furnace repairs include:
- Ignitor replacements
- Pressure switch replacements
- Sequencer replacements
- Transformer replacements
Major furnace repairs can require a lot of time, manual labor and skill. These repairs address issues that severely limit or completely inhibit your system’s performance.
In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to replace your furnace rather than complete a major repair.
Major furnace repairs include:
- Gas valve replacements
- Circuit board replacements
- Inducer motor replacements
- Blower motor replacements
- Heat exchanger repairs and replacements
Now, let’s break these repairs down. To do this, we’ll discuss the role of each part, its life expectancy, and the total cost of the repair.
The price ranges listed below include the cost of the part, labor and fees. The prices listed below are higher than many other guides mention. This is because many other guides only list the cost of the part.
Furnace Ignitor Replacement
Your furnace’s ignitor provides the spark that heats your home. Modern ignitors can have a life expectancy between 5-15 years, depending on the type of ignitor your furnace has.
A furnace ignitor replacement typically costs around $300.
Furnace Pressure Switch Replacement
Your furnace has multiple safety switches, but furnace pressure switches are more likely to fail than many switches. Even then, furnace pressure switches can have a life expectancy of at least 10 years.
A furnace pressure switch replacement typically costs around $250.
Electric Furnace Sequencer Replacement
If your electric furnace isn’t heating your home, there could be an issue with its sequencers. Sequencers help power an electric furnace’s heat strips. (Heat strips rarely fail.) Sequencers can have a life expectancy of 12-15 years.
A sequencer replacement for an electric furnace typically costs around $300.
Furnace Transformer Replacement
Furnace transformers supply electricity to your furnace.
Furnace transformers rarely fail. When they do, it’s likely due to electrical stress on your furnace. (One culprit could be short cycling.) But furnace transformers can last as long as your furnace.
When they do fail, a furnace transformer replacement typically costs around $400.
Gas Valve Replacements
Gas valves supply a furnace with fuel. Gas valves can last as long as your furnace.
The final cost of a gas valve replacement depends on the type of gas valve you need.
Your furnace’s staging affects the type of gas valve you need.
In this case, staging refers to the number of capacity settings your gas valve has. This can allow your furnace to adjust its heating output.
There are three types of gas valves:
To learn more about single-stage, two-stage and modulating furnaces, check out the video below. If you’re more of a reader, check out this article that also tackles single-stage, two-stage and modulating furnaces.
Gas valves generally have a low rate of failure. But when they do fail, the complexity of your furnace’s gas valve affects the cost of a replacement.
Typically, single-stage and two-stage gas valve replacements cost $600 - $800. But modulating gas valves can cost around $1,000 due to their complexity.
The price can also increase if the gas valve that your furnace needs is no longer manufactured.
Furnace Circuit Board Replacement
Your furnace’s circuit board tells the rest of your furnace how to do its job. In other words, the circuit board keeps your furnace on track in the home heating cycle.
The life expectancy of a circuit board depends on factors in your home.
Moisture is the number one cause of circuit board failure. The life expectancy of your furnace’s circuit board can significantly decrease if there’s a lot of moisture in the area where your system’s located.
A furnace circuit board replacement can cost between $550 - $1,100, depending on how complex your system is.
If your home struggles with excess moisture or humidity, adding systems like dehumidifiers can help.
Furnace Inducer Motor Replacement
Your furnace’s inducer motor moves air within your furnace.
The inducer motor has two roles:
- Moving the air through the heating process within your furnace
- Exhausting waste gases, including carbon monoxide, through flue pipes
Furnace inducer motors can have a life expectancy of 12-15 years.
A replacement furnace inducer motor can cost around $800.
Furnace Blower Motor Replacement
Your furnace’s blower motor circulates air throughout your home. Without your blower motor, your furnace can’t effectively distribute conditioned air to the rooms in your home.
The type of blower motor can change its life expectancy. Older furnaces typically have permanent-split compressor (PSC) blower motors, which are relatively simple and inexpensive to produce. PSC blower motors can have a life expectancy of 10-12 years.
Replacement PSC blower motors start at $700 to replace.
Variable-speed blower motors, on the other hand, have a longer life expectancy. Variable-speed blower motors have a variety of speed settings that offer more control over your system. Variable-speed blower motors can have a life expectancy of 15-20 years.
But when they do break down, variable-speed blower motors are more expensive to replace than PSC motors. Because of their complexity, variable-speed blower motors can cost $1,700 - $2,000 to replace.
Heat Exchanger Repairs and Replacements
Heat exchangers play a significant role in heating your home. During the home heating cycle, a heat exchanger heats the air. The blower motor then distributes that heat throughout your home.
Heat exchangers typically have a life expectancy of 20 years. But this life expectancy can decrease significantly if the rest of your system is strained.
When your heat exchanger cracks, this is usually evidence of building issues.
Dirt, dust and clogged filters can strain your system by increasing static pressure, or airflow resistance. But dirt, dust and clogged filters can also cause your system to overheat. (One way to avoid this is by regularly changing your filters and scheduling annual professional maintenance.)
Overheating is hard on your heat exchanger. A heat exchanger heats up and cools down hundreds of thousands of times within its average lifespan. But when it overheats, a heat exchanger can become more brittle. This can result in cracking.
While it is possible to repair a heat exchanger instead of replacing it, heat exchanger repairs start around $100 but can cost as much as thousands of dollars.
Your furnace’s heat exchanger is located behind all its other parts. To even begin working on your heat exchanger, a service technician must take your furnace apart. This is labor-intensive and takes a lot of time.
Once the technician has a clear view, they must be highly skilled to evaluate and repair the heat exchanger.
Replacing a heat exchanger is equally labor-intensive. A replacement heat exchanger can cost $1,000 - $2,000 under warranty. But if your furnace’s parts aren’t under warranty, your heat exchanger could cost as much as $3,500 to replace.
How Much Does a Replacement Furnace Cost?
A new furnace replacement typically costs between $3,000 - $7,600. This includes labor and other fees.
The final cost of a furnace replacement depends on a few factors, including:
For more information on how these factors affect the cost, check out the video below.
Why the Age of Your Furnace Matters
You should consider the age of your furnace when you’re deciding whether to repair or replace it.
Modern furnaces have a life expectancy of 15-20 years. Well-maintained furnaces can last even longer than that.
First of all, your furnace typically shouldn’t need repairs if it’s under 10 years old.
But as your furnace nears the end of its life expectancy, it may not be cost-effective to repair it. In other words, if your furnace is approaching 20 years old, you’ll likely need to replace it in the near future.
This is why we typically recommend investing your money in a replacement instead of pushing a total breakdown off for a little longer.
When to Repair and When to Replace Your Furnace
Now that you know some of the factors, let’s discuss how these factors can affect your decision.
Of course, this decision is always up to you. Your HVAC partner should present your options fairly so you can make the best decision for you, your family and your home.
If your furnace is under 10 years old and requires a major repair, that’s a sign that your system is under significant strain.
A few factors can create this strain:
- Manufacturer defect
- Improper installation
- Irregular (or lack of) maintenance
But it’s natural for parts to fail in older systems. However, at a certain point, you may need to weigh your options.
For example, let’s say your heat exchanger cracks. It may not be cost-effective to invest thousands of dollars to repair or replace your heat exchanger if the rest of your system is approaching the end of its lifespan.
As we discussed earlier, a heat exchanger can cost as much as $3,500 to replace. That can be more than the cost of a replacement furnace. If you have an older furnace, this may not be the most cost-effective decision.
This is why it’s never a bad idea to know how much a replacement furnace will cost. When you know the cost of your ideal system, you can better evaluate whether you think it’s more cost-effective to repair or replace your furnace.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth breakdown of the cost of a replacement furnace, check out this article that discusses all the factors that affect the cost of a new furnace.
If you decide to replace your furnace, check out this article on the factors that affect which furnace fits your home and your needs.
If you’d like an HVAC professional to assess your current furnace, we’d love to help!
At Fire & Ice, we believe in doing the right thing for our customers. This means we present your options fairly and educate you on any possible solutions. Our service technicians and sales professionals are available to give you the information you need so you can identify which option is the best for you.
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