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If your furnace is malfunctioning, how do you know whether to repair or replace it? In this article, we offer advice on having your furnace repaired and replaced based on two criteria: repair cost, and your furnace’s remaining lifespan. We begin by identifying the type of contractors that should perform a repair or a replacement.

When things start to go wrong

Most heating problems are addressed after a homeowner notices a difference in (a) internal temperature, or (b) force of airflow. In either case, the culprit could be a recalcitrant furnace, or not. For example, a progressive lowering of temperature could result from leaky ductwork; and a unit that stops working could suffer from a clogged AC coil, or an extinguished pilot light, not serious mechanical problems. That’s why it’s important to hire a professional heating service you can trust. The following characteristics identify a quality heating service:

1. NATE certified technicians

NATE certification indicates two things about the technicians that possess it: they have superior technical training as certified by a test required to achieve NATE certification, and they remain abreast of the latest residential HVAC technology and practices.

2. Bonded and insured

When heating contractors are bonded and insured, it protects you financially against: (a) breach of contract, and (b) damage to your person or property as a result of the project. Always ask for proof of a company’s bonding and insurance before hiring it.

3. Willing to provide extensive references

It’s always a good idea to ask a company for references beyond those it initially offers, as extended references often paint a clearer picture of a company’s service quality than its initial references.

4. Good record at the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

When a company puts its customers first, it doesn’t have unresolved customer complaints on its record at the BBB. Always check a company’s BBB record for unresolved customer complaints, and move on to another company if it has them.

Should you repair your furnace or replace it?

After having a reputable technician assess your problem, you should base your decision about repair versus replacement on your furnace’s age and the cost to repair its problem. For example, if your unit is over 14 years old and needs repairs, it should probably be replaced, as its future repairs could soon amount to the price of a new unit. If it’s 9-14 years old and requires a repair in excess of $200, replacement should be considered for the same reason. If it’s 5-9 old, replacement should be considered when a repair would exceed $600. These estimates are based on how much repair the average furnace needs at various points in its lifespan. For more precise numbers based on your particular unit, contact a heating company.