I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but the six words I fear the most as I’m relaxing on a Sunday morning and getting ready for the Seahawks game go like this: “hey honey, the furnace isn’t working”. I know better than to ask if it can wait until half time.

Fancying myself as a true handyman around the house, I hate to admit it but there are three problem areas in the “Mr. Fix It” arena that scare the heck out of me: electricity, water and gas. I clearly know that these are not among my specialties.

Not wanting to face the prospect of hearing those feared six words again, I’ve learned to spot danger ahead of time.

Life Expectancy – a Key to Decision-Making

For starters, every homeowner should have an idea about the life expectancy of their furnace. Since all furnaces are not created equal, there are a variety of factors involved. Typically, a forced-air gas furnace can be expected to last 15-20 years. However, some builders use lower quality units that may die in the 8-12 year range. Electric furnaces can last 50% longer than their gas counterparts, but they are more expensive to operate and are slower to heat the entire home. Knowing about life expectancy better equips the homeowner to make the repair vs. replace decision when trouble arrives.

Since gas furnaces are more prevalent than electric, I’ll focus on them. Understand that it’s almost always cheaper to get them repaired by a certified professional at South West Plumbing than it is to replace. Cheaper is not always better however, since efficiency must also be considered. Newer, energy-efficient units will cost less to operate, so do the math before jumping to a conclusion.
Heed the Warnings and Eliminate Emergencies

Here are some warning signs signaling it may be time to take out that credit card and stave off a probable emergency by repairing or replacing your furnace –

• Old Age

Relax – not you, but your furnace. The closer your furnace gets to the end of its life expectancy, the more problems you can anticipate. While regular maintenance is always a good precaution, it’s needed more as your furnace ages (note the average age spans above). You’ll get a much bigger bang for your buck if you plan for a repair or replacement rather than have to do so in a state of panic.

• Rising Gas & Electric Bills

Furnaces often lose their efficiency as they age especially if they have not been properly maintained. As a result, your furnace may run longer to provide the same amount of heat, resulting in a higher bill.

• Thermostat No Longer Keeping Up

If you experience big differences in temperature between rooms or are needing to adjust your thermostat frequently, your furnace is probably losing its ability to properly distribute the air in your home.

• Signs of Carbon Monoxide – Yikes!

A yellow or flickering flame may be a sign that poisonous carbon monoxide could be coming from your furnace. Other signs include: streaks of soot around furnace, excess moisture on windows, walls, or other cold surfaces, excessive rust on pipes, and water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent, or flue pipe.

• Strange Noises from Furnace

A furnace nearing its demise may issue warnings in the form of strange noises such as banging, popping, rattling, or squealing. A furnace blower running excessively is another warning signal.

• Dry or Dusty House

Furnaces suffering from old age often lack the ability to moisturize and clean the air in your home. As a result, your house air may feel stuffy or stale.

Trusty Plumber to the Rescue

To ensure you can rest easy as you watch the game on Sunday, it’s probably best that you get South West Plumbing out for an inspection and regular maintenance before your furnace sends your wife and you into a first quarter panic.