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Furnace Lifespans Compared to Other Heating Systems

by vscontent on December 29, 2017


Furnace Lifespans Compared to Other Heating Systems

When your furnace starts aging and developing strange tics and idiosyncrasies, you may start wondering how long it will be before you need to find a replacement.

Your furnace works hard every winter and then sits idle for the rest of the year. It’s quite remarkable that it lasts for as long as it does.

The average lifespan of a furnace—if it has been professionally maintained every year—is about 25 years.

Gas furnaces are the most popular heating system in the United States. Compared with other heating systems, gas furnaces last longer and tend to be more efficient.

Modern furnace models can last reliably for over 30 years, but if your furnace is over 15 years old, you may want to consider replacement options. It could make sense to replace an aging furnace if the efficiency level has dropped significantly.

Heating System Lifespans

Furnace, aka Forced Air Heating System (Central Heating)

In a forced air system, you need ductwork to transfer the conditioned air to your living spaces. This is normally accomplished with a gas furnace, however, other heating methods can be used, such as electricity, propane, and oil.

The reason why they are called central heating systems is because heat is generated in a central location and then distributed throughout the home via a series of ducts.

Gas furnaces are by far the most common type of heating system in the United States. The air gets heated in the furnace and then gets distributed through air ducts and vents.

Efficiency: 59-98.5% AFUE (depending on age and other factors)

Average Lifespan: 15-40 years (depending on regular maintenance and other factors)

If your furnace is over 15 years old and you are thinking about replacement options, we recommend speaking with a professional about potential alternatives.

Even if it’s not quite time to replace your furnace, you will benefit from the full-home inspection and professional recommendations.

For more information on gas furnaces, read our Furnace Frequently Asked Questions page.

Learn about furnace retrofit options that will improve furnace efficiency and extend its lifespan.

Boilers (Radiators)

Learn how boilers work and boiler retrofit options that will help improve energy efficiency and extend its lifespan.

Efficiency: 50-90% AFUE (depending on age and other factors)

Average Lifespan: 15-30 years (depending on regular maintenance and other factors)

Heat Pumps

Learn how heat pumps work.

Efficiency: 6.8-10 HSPF (depending on age and other factors)

Average Lifespan: 15 years (depending on regular maintenance and other factors)

For more information, read our heat pump FAQ page.

Hybrid Heating

Learn how hybrid heating works.

Efficiency: 6.8-10 HSPF/59-98.5% AFUE (depending on age and other factors)

Average Lifespan: 15-30 years (depending on regular maintenance and other factors)

Solar Heating

Learn how solar heating works.

Efficiency: N/A

Average Lifespan: 20+ years (depending on regular maintenance and other factors) 

Electric Heating 

Learn how electric heating works.

Efficiency: 95-100% AFUE

Average Lifespan: 20+ years

Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump

Learn how ductless mini-splits work.

Efficiency: 6.8-10 HSPF

Average Lifespan: 10-30 years

Radiant Heating

Learn how radiant heating works.

Efficiency: N/A (radiant heating is a distribution system that can be used with boilers, heat pumps, solar or electric heating)

Average Lifespan: 50+ years (current high-tech plastics can last for a very long time (sometimes over 100 years), but you will have to replace the mechanical heating system more often)

Signs You Should Replace Your Furnace

  • Frequent heating and comfort problems
  • Cycles on and off all the time
  • Strange noises
  • High energy bills
  • Expensive repairs
  • Humidity problems
  • Excessive rust, dust/dirt, or soot
  • Signs of cracks and corrosion

If you notice any of these warning signs, contact an HVAC technician for a professional diagnosis.

One way to tell if you need to replace your furnace is if you are faced with a repair that costs 50% or more of the cost of a replacement. Furnace replacements are to be expected. When it’s time, simply give us a call. We’ll walk you through the process and recommend custom solutions for your home.

Buying a New Furnace?

Before you upgrade your heating system, speak with an HVAC professional about improving the energy efficiency of your home first. This will help save you money on energy bills and potentially purchase a smaller unit, saving you money on installation and operating costs.

Replacing an aging furnace isn’t all bad. While you will have to spend some money, you will instantly notice the improvement in energy efficiency, comfort, and indoor air quality.

When you replace an old furnace with a new high-efficiency model, you will be amazed at how low your monthly energy bills are.

If you are considering replacing your current heating system, there are many other options to consider, including programmable thermostats, upgraded ductwork, and hybrid or zoned heating.

The key to extending the lifespan of your HVAC system is routine professional maintenance at the beginning of each and every heating/cooling season. Learn more about professional HVAC maintenance.

There are many different ways to heat your home. If you are wondering if you should upgrade or replace your heating system, check out our repair or replace infographic.

Don’t forget to take advantage of local and federal rebates and tax incentives for high-efficiency units. You may be eligible for a federal tax incentives, local rebates, and financing.


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