Updated On

November 9, 2023

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    It’s easy to ignore your home heating system. After all, the only time you’ve probably given it a second thought is when adjusting the thermostat. However, knowing how your heating system works and what to do if it doesn’t can go a long way toward keeping you warm on cold winter nights.

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    Tips For Extending Your Heating System’s Lifespan

    The typical cost to replace a heating system in a house is approximately $5,500 to $11,000, which is definitely a significant expense most homeowners would like to put off as long as possible. So, how can you extend the life of your heating system?

    Smart, preventative maintenance is key to extending the life of your HVAC system. Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to extend the life of your heating system and reduce heating and cooling costs.

    Schedule Regular Checkups

    Having an HVAC technician regularly check your heating system and air conditioner can save you thousands of dollars in repairs if they catch any problems early on.

    You should have your heating system regularly inspected and serviced at least twice a year to ensure it functions optimally. During routine maintenance visits, your HVAC professional can also inform you if your system is outdated, harming indoor air quality, and increasing energy costs. 

    Change the Filter Regularly

    Another crucial part of caring for your heating system is regularly changing your dirty air filters. Filthy air filters force your heating system to work harder to circulate air in your home, causing unneeded strain on the system.

    Most homeowners use 30-day or three-month filters, but you should check these regularly, and before their “time is up” in case they get clogged or filthy before expected.

    Adjust Your Home’s Environment

    Make smart decisions, like installing shades and investing in high-quality ceiling fans, reducing your reliance on your heating and cooling systems. Reflective shades can block and reflect unwanted heat from the outside during the summer but be removed during the winter to allow more natural and free heat to come into your home.

    Don’t be afraid to bundle up and use blankets and sweaters to keep yourself warm during the winter without cranking up the temperature in your home. Space heaters can also help you save money and prevent wear and tear on your heating system.

    Turn off your HVAC system whenever you can and allow open windows, space heaters, fans, and blankets to carry you through the day. You can even look for an “auto” setting on your HVAC system, reducing how often it’s actively heating and cooling your house. Remember that if you struggle with allergies or other respiratory issues, you may need to keep your HVAC on the “on” setting to keep air quality as high as possible.

    Upgrade Your Insulation

    The less your system has to run to maintain the desired temperature throughout your home, the longer the system will last. Keeping your home properly insulated will reduce how much heating and air conditioning you need to maintain your desired temperature.

    The best place to look for air leaks and insufficient insulation is your attic. We recommend checking the Environmental Protection Agency’s insulation climate map to see the guidelines for insulation in your area. If you have less insulation than recommended, call a professional for an energy audit and evaluation of your insulation.

    Clean Your Ducts

    Ducts are crucial for your HVAC system, indoor air quality, and energy efficiency. You or a professional should deep clean your air ducts every five years to maintain healthy indoor air quality and improve your HVAC’s life span and efficiency. 

    Use a Smart Thermostat

    A smart thermostat can save you a lot of money on your utility bill. Look for programmable thermostats that you can control from anywhere with your smartphone. This allows you to cut back on heating and cooling if you spend the night elsewhere and make other energy-saving adjustments to your settings.

    Repair Any Issues Immediately

    The longer you wait to repair your heating system, the worse the problem may get and the more strain your system will undergo. As soon as you know about a small issue, immediately have it addressed by a service technician so that your heating system is always in the best shape possible.

    Upgrade your Heating System

    Did you know that there are huge differences between different types of heating systems and their average life spans? For example, a heat pump system only has a life expectancy of 15 years, while furnaces and boilers are expected to last 15 to 30 years. Modern heating systems, like electric heating and active solar heating, are even expected to last 20+ years.

    If you have an outdated heating system that isn’t energy efficient, it may be worthwhile to replace the entire unit. Not only will you likely reduce your energy consumption and energy bill, but you’ll have a better chance of maintaining the new system if you start with good habits from the beginning of the system’s life span.

    If you want to upgrade your heating system, consider electric heating, which has an estimated 95% to 100% energy efficiency and is relatively inexpensive to purchase compared to other heating systems.

    Know What To Do if Your Furnace Stops Working.

    While you should leave furnace repairs to trained heating professionals, there are a couple of things you may want to try first before paying for a service call.

    • Thermostat Settings: Start by checking the thermostat to make sure it’s turned on, set to heat, and at the right temperature. Also, ensure the programmable feature found on most new thermostats isn’t set to turn the furnace off. Many new thermostats are battery-powered and will stop working when the batteries run down, so replace the batteries to see if that solves the problem.
    • Power Supply: Next, check the circuit breaker or fuse that supplies power to the furnace to see if it’s tripped or blown. If it is, turn the breaker back on or replace the fuse. Remember that it probably tripped for a reason, so if it happens again, have an HVAC pro check it out.
    • Reset Button: Your furnace may have a reset button. Start by turning the power off the furnace, then look for a red or yellow reset button. You will probably find it under the cover of the furnace motor. Press the reset button, replace the cover, and turn the power back on to see if that fixes the problem. Call an HVAC pro to fix the problem if the reset button trips again.
    • Pilot Light: If your furnace has a pilot light, check to see if it’s gone out. If it has, relight the pilot following the instructions in the owner’s manual.

    Your furnace needs to be inspected regularly to operate at maximum efficiency. The best time to have your furnace inspected is in the fall to make sure it’s in top shape for the cold winter ahead.

    You can also have your furnace inspected at the end of the heating season when heating companies are not as busy, and you may receive an off-season discount.

    Know When It’s Time To Replace Your Furnace

    As reliable as your furnace may have been, it might be time for a new one. Here are some warning signs that your furnace may be ready for replacement:

    • Room Temperature: If some rooms are warmer than others, you have uneven heat distribution. It might simply be that the ducts need adjusting or cleaning, but it could indicate a problem with the furnace or heating system itself.
    • Furnace Age: Furnaces typically need to be replaced after 15 years, and heat pumps after 10. If you’re not sure about the age of your furnace, a dealer or HVAC pro can give you an estimate of its age and expected lifespan.
    • Unusual Sounds: Unusual or excessive noise could indicate that the duct system is too small for your home, which can cause a strain on the furnace, or there may be a problem with the furnace itself.
    • High Heating Bills: A more energy-efficient furnace might be the answer if your winter heating bills are through the roof. Start by taking the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick to see how your home scores on a 1 to 10 scale. If you score a 5 or lower, you probably use more energy than necessary to heat and cool your home. In addition to installing a more energy-efficient heating system, you should consider adding more insulation and improving the energy efficiency of windows and doors.
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    Final Thoughts

    A heating system can be expensive to replace and cost more to run if not properly maintained. Keep up with routine maintenance and regular tune-ups from a professional maintenance technician so that you can rest easy knowing your system runs optimally and does not consume excessive amounts of energy.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Alora Bopray

    Alora Bopray

    Staff Writer

    Alora Bopray is a digital content producer for the home warranty, HVAC, and plumbing categories at Today's Homeowner. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of St. Scholastica and her master's degree from the University of Denver. Before becoming a writer for Today's Homeowner, Alora wrote as a freelance writer for dozens of home improvement clients and informed homeowners about the solar industry as a writer for EcoWatch. When she's not writing, Alora can be found planning her next DIY home improvement project or plotting her next novel.

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    photo of Roxanne Downer

    Roxanne Downer


    Roxanne Downer is a commerce editor at Today’s Homeowner, where she tackles everything from foundation repair to solar panel installation. She brings more than 15 years of writing and editing experience to bear in her meticulous approach to ensuring accurate, up-to-date, and engaging content. She’s previously edited for outlets including MSN, Architectural Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, Roxanne is now an Oklahoma homeowner, DIY enthusiast, and the proud parent of a playful pug.

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