Furnace: Fix or Replace?


Our home has a 14 year old Bryant Plus 90i furnace. It's running in We've had it inspected by two different firms an have been told it needs a new pilot assembly and blower module. The estimates ranged from $800 to $1000.
One of the heating company techs suggested replacing the furnace rather than fix it. He said we're nearly half way to the cost of a new furnace, why spend all that money and still hav a 14 year old furnace. It it seems wasteful to toss out a furnace that's only 14 years old. Also, about once or twice a month, the inducer squeals for about 30 to 45 seconds, but it works itself out and quiets down.
What is the best way to go? Fix it or replace it?
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It is your furnace and your money, but I would recommend replacing it. I am in S.Tx, and there are virtually no 90% furnaces here, so I am not familiar with that exact furnace, but I have not heard real good things about the Carrier Payne/ Bryant units of that age range. Even after you spend the $1000, you still have the inducer problem you mentioned-- $$$ , and other companants left on it to fail. I have seen people spend money on old furnaces and a/cs before, only to turn around and have to replace them anyway. If it were 7-8 y/o, it would be a little different, but 14 yrs is unfotunately getting pretty close to the life expectancy of a furnace, especially in cold country where it gets a lot of use, or an a/c around here. Larry
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Any chance you could clean or replace the pilot yourself? Perhaps get some oil into the blower motor?

Are you sure it's the inducer?

Nobody can tell you.
In your position, I'd try to evaluate what is needed in detail. Armed with such info, even if you can't fix it yourself, you'd be in a position to properly bargain with a reliable contractor if the unit is servicable. I'm guessing that it is.
Good Luck, Puddin'
"Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim." - Bertrand Russell
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wrote:

Is this by any chance the famous Carrier three wire pilot? With the bi-metal switch?
Al
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I have a 30 year old gas furnace that is still running well. The exhaust stack is too hot to touch. That to me means a lot of heat is wasted. I checked out a friend's new home Trane high efficiency furnace. The exhaust is vented through a PVC pipe and the air feels just warm. My furnace exhaust would have melted that PVC pipe. I am impressed. I haven't been able to talk to someone who knows what the technical improvements are. Trane claims something like 90 per cent heating efficiency. If you are going to replace your furnace do check out the new high effficiency furnace.
That said what exactly is wrong with your furnace that the technicians advise you to fix those parts?
My pilot light mechanism has been working without problem for 30 years now. In the first ten years I needed only one change of the thermocouple, a very easy job requiring only a (3/8"?) wrench. The other maintenance jobs was 1. to sandpaper the soot off the thermocouple tip. 2. adjust the thermocouple tip so that the pilot light plays on it. 3. improvise a sheet metal strip baffle to prevent gusts of wind from blowing out the pilot light. The last time I needed to do 1, 2 &3 was more than 10 years ago. My regular maintenance is just replacing the air filters and an occasional vacuuming the furnace insides and outsides.
The blower module problem is also very easy to fix. If your motor (1/3 or 1/2 hp) is running just clean it with a stiff brush and vacuum. Oil the bearings with 10/30 motor oil. Never put grease. The furnace will dry the grease and either seize the bearings or scour them. Replace the fan belt and do not over tension the belt. Adjust the motor's stand-off bolt until the motor's weight can turn the blower fan cage without slipping. Take out the blower squirrel cage and clean it throughly. Make a note of the direction the blower blades face and reinstall the same way. Probably the cage bearings will be worn and need to be replaced. They are dry bronze bearings that do not need lubrication. That caution about grease (and oil) drying out then seizing or scouring the bearings applies, so no lube oil or grease on the blower's bearings.
The only real problem will be burning though the heat exchanger tubes. But at 14 years there is still a lot of life left in them.
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I would suggest replacing it.
The 90 plus furnaces from "the good old days" weren't all that good.
All of the bugs hadn't been worked out yet.
It was said at the time the money one saved in gas was spent on repairs.
I'm told now by our HVAC guy that the newer ones are rock solid and dependable.
Good luck.
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kc wrote:

I can only tell you what I would do. Mine is about 12 or 13 years old and I am just waiting for a good excuse to replace and upgrade my system. Improved efficiency and zoning should lead to improved economy and more comfort.
--
Joseph Meehan

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While replacement is a consideration, they should have quoted a price on a replacment while they were there instead of just saying something off the top of their head like it's almost half the price.
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I suggest replacing it. It is going to cost you more than 2K though. It is towards the end of it's life span. Spend the extra money and get a good furnace. I would definitely get at least a 2 stage variable speed furnace. I like Trane and Rheem/Ruud, others have their preference. Make sure you have a good contractor. Referrals of other installations similar to yours, NATE certified technicians, in the top echelon of contractors with that brand, ie Trane Comfort Specialist. If you have AC i would upgrade at the same time. Make sure you get a 10 year P&L warranty, etc.
In reference to the guy whose furnace is still running after 30 years. IT might even run another 10. They were built like tanks back then, with minmal simple controls and safeties. Now adays expect 15-20 years. If you replaced your 30 year old furnace you will cut your fuel use in half.
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Bob Pietrangelo
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Bob Pietrangelo wrote:

Even if I could cut my fuel use in half, replacing my furnace still wouldn't make sense economically, because we only heat for a couple of months out of the year where I'm at. I don't know how you can make broad generalizations as you did without knowing the salient details.
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Replace it.
My conventional (~80%) gas furnace/AC system was 14-1/2-years old when I was talked into replacing it. I'm glad I did.
The furnace had cost us several hundred dollars in the last few years and was in need of yet another blower motor when we switched. The AC condenser (10 SEER?) had seen a couple of less-than-cheap repairs over the years as well.
We installed a Weather King (generic Rheem) condensing furnace (~95%?) and 13 SEER Rheem AC unit.
I has been "exactly" one year and, based on observation and utility bills, I believe we are getting enough additional bang for our heating/cooling buck that it will repay the replacement cost in a few years.
One of the more notable improvements was the addition of a high-efficiency air filtration system.
<http://www.ultravation.com/Filtration.html
Several months after the new system went into service, Mrs. MacWidow mentioned that she has to dust MUCH less often. This was an unsolicited observation from a woman that is not very impressed with anything as mundane as a high-efficiently air filtration system.
Done with a good friend, as is common with "good buddy" installations, the project was completed when we could "come together" and do it. Of course, that was also when the bottom fell out of the thermometer last February. Without a furnace for a couple of days, using a handful of electric heaters, the temp in the house dropped to only 65F overnight when, one of the nights, the outdoor temp plunged to -8F.
We replaced the adjoining water heater at the same time which gave us MUCH more "elbow room" in which to do the work. Good luck!
--
:)
JR

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