To Repair Or Replace Your Furnace, That Is The Question

When your furnace starts acting up, there's a little moment of panic. Replacing a furnace can be an incredibly expensive job, and if you're not well versed in diagnosing furnace problems, every little hiccup probably seems a bit like it could be the end. The good news is that furnaces are pretty repairable, and when you need to replace them, there are options for financing and assistance to keep you warm on a budget. Here's what you need to know.

What's that Smell?

The scent of a working furnace can be a shock. The first few times you turn your furnace on you'll likely smell something musty, dusty or dirty. That's because the duct work through your home collects dust during the off season and when you turn the furnace on it blows all that junk out through the house. If you keep smelling it every time the furnace turns on, it's likely the furnace needs a new filter and to be cleaned and serviced. If you smell burning plastic, oil, smoke, or hot metal, call in a furnace expert right away, because there's likely a broken electrical component, cracked heat exchange, or other serious problem.

What's that Sound?

Furnaces make noise; that's just part of life. They make sounds like humming, low rumbles, or even whistles as air moves through the ducts. If an unfamiliar sound rears its head it's time to investigate.

  • Cycling without kicking on is usually a problem with the thermostat or the thermocouple. Both of these parts are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. In newer thermostats, it can be as simple as replacing a pair of batteries.
  • Banging or a suddenly much louder rumble is often a sign that something is in the blower that shouldn't be. It needs to be removed immediately or it will cause permanent damage to the furnace. If you don't know how to take a furnace apart, it's time to call in the experts.

The sounds a furnace makes are often not indicators of the need to replace the furnace. 

Why is it So Darn Cold in Here?

If your furnace isn't working at all, or has become mostly inadequate at heating your home, your first stop is to check the thermostat. Replacing it may solve the problem entirely, but if it doesn't, there's a good chance something more sinister is at fault.

  • A shot blower is an expensive part to replace. If the blower isn't working, it means the hot air can't circulate through the house, and it just stays in the furnace, wreaking more havoc. 
  • A cracked heat exchanger can sometimes present carbon monoxide hazards and almost always causes ignition problems. A cracked heat exchanger can blow the pilot light out, preventing any ignition at all, can blow out the burner flames, or cause them to be malpositioned, tripping heat sensors that automatically shut the furnace down. If your pilot is constantly blowing out, or if you've had to replace heat sensors multiple times, it's time to investigate and see if your heat exchanger is still operational. If it's not, it's time for a whole new furnace. 

If it's time for a new furnace, don't panic. Many furnaces run in the thousands of dollars, especially for larger homes, but they don't have to break the bank. Financing them with a small personal loan, assistance from an organization like LEAP, or financing provided by the furnace servicer are all options that help make a new furnace affordable. 

Even though a furnace problem causes a little moment of panic, things will be okay. Most problems are easily fixed, and when they're not, you have options. Visit websites like for more information.