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How Long Will My Furnace Last If Taken Care Of?

How long will your furnace last? Is this a question you have contemplated? Whether you are purchasing a new home or have lived in yours for some time, you depend on your furnace to be there, at the ready, whenever Chicagoland temperatures warrant it. How long your furnace will last under normal conditions and with proper care, though, is a calculated guess, at best. Take a typical forced-air system. Most parts can either be replaced or repaired, so the unit in its entirety could last a very long time. The most critical component, however, is the heat exchanger. The average life span of a heat exchanger, depending on the model, is 15 to 25 years.

The Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger is the workhorse of the furnace system, continually heating and cooling while in use. The expanding and contracting from temperature fluctuations can corrode or crack the metal over time. Older exchangers were generally made of cast iron and could last for decades, but they were not as energy efficient as the newer stainless and aluminum-steel systems, which can help a furnace achieve an efficiency of nearly 100 percent. Once a heat exchanger goes--sometimes because of neglected maintenance--it's likely that you'll need a new furnace. The cost of heat exchanger repair is so much that it usually makes the most sense to replace your furnace.

Repair or Upgrade?

It also might be more cost effective to replace an older system that is still running, if you can increase your energy savings (and lower utility costs) significantly over the life of the new furnace. Other energy improvements you might have made in your home, such as air sealing and replacing windows and doors, could mean a smaller, less expensive furnace would be sufficient to maintain your comfort. A qualified HVAC technician can do a home energy audit and determine if your system is providing the best service at the lowest cost.

Maintenance Tips

It makes sense that a furnace that is well maintained will provide many years of comfort. You can play a role in how long your furnace will last by following a few basic routines:

  • Schedule annual maintenance checks with your HVAC contractor. Your contractor will inspect your furnace for signs of wear, check for leaks, adjust the controls and thermostat settings, clean the connections and check the venting. His inspection might include other tasks, as well. 
  • Check the furnace filter every 30 to 60 days, and replace it as soon as it looks dirty. Remove the filter, hold it up to the light, and if you can't see through it, put in a new filter. Dirty filters diminish airflow, making the furnace work harder than it should to maintain your home's temperature settings. Sometimes a dirty filter can even cause your furnace to stop working.
  • Keep humidity in your home as low as possible--without affecting your comfort. This will help to keep the heat exchanger from rusting. Keep the A/C coil clean if that is a part of your system, because condensation can leak onto the heat exchanger and rust it, as well.

So How Long Will Your Furnace Last?

As mentioned, a number of factors can determine the life of your furnace, but if your system meets the needs of your home effectively, runs efficiently and gets annual maintenance by a qualified HVAC technician, then you can expect it to keep you and your family warm for 15 years or more. That is a sound return on your investment, especially if you have a high-efficiency model.

For expert advice on how to make your furnace last for many years, contact the professionals at Our factory trained heating contractors provide our neighbors' home-comfort needs in the Chicagoland, northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan areas every day of the year.

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