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Ah, California! The Golden State. A place of nearly endless summers and mild winters (usually). But this unique climate has its own set of quirks that can impact the heating and cooling systems in your home.

We’ve been offering furnace and air conditioning service in the Central Valley long enough to know the importance of accounting for California’s specific environmental factors. Understanding how these affect your HVAC equipment can help you anticipate and overcome potential problems. Let’s take a closer look.

Homes near water during California's humid heating season

What to Plan For When Heating California Homes

Look Out for Temperature Fluctuations

California’s winters might be mild, but sudden temperature drops can happen. Here’s how it affects your heating:

  • Unpredictability: You may find yourself switching from AC to heating within hours.
  • Equipment Stress: Sudden demands can put stress on your heating system.

What You Can Do: Regularly check your thermostat and have a professional look at the system before winter kicks in.

Anticipate Humidity Levels

California can get quite humid, especially in the winter. This can affect your heating equipment in several ways:

  • Reduced Efficiency: Humidity may cause your heating system to work harder.
  • Potential Damage: Increased humidity can lead to rust and other damages.
  • What You Can Do: Investing in a dehumidifier can help maintain optimal indoor humidity levels during the winter (although you may also want a whole-home humidifier to add moisture to your air during our dry summer months).

Consider the Coastal Influence

If you live near the coast, salty air can influence your heating in a few different ways as well:

  • Corrosion Issues: Salt in the air leads to an increased risk of corrosion in your HVAC system over time.
  • Increased Breakdowns: Corrosion on your blower fan or heating elements can force your furnace to work harder than necessary, driving up your utility bills and raising your risk of a costly emergency.

What You Can Do: Schedule regular maintenance for your furnace (including regular duct cleaning). This will help remove salt particles before they have a chance to corrode your system.

California homes during the hot and dry cooling season

What to Remember When Cooling California Homes

Get Ready for Hot Summer Days

The heat in California can be relentless. Here’s how it affects your cooling:

  • Increased Workload: Your AC works overtime during hot spells.
  • High Energy Bills: Running your cooling equipment constantly throughout the day leads to higher utility bills.

What You Can Do: Shade your outdoor unit and try to keep the thermostat at a consistent setting.

Keep an Eye On Air Quality

Air quality (especially in urban areas) can influence cooling and impact your home comfort as well. Here’s how:

  • Filtering Challenges: More pollutants in the air can clog filters faster than usual.
  • Health Concerns: Poor air quality might cause discomfort or make respiratory problems worse.

What You Can Do: Regularly change or upgrade filters and consider an air purifier.

Professional HVAC technician examining outdoor AC unit

Why Hiring Professional HVAC Technicians Matters

Trust us on this one—hiring professional HVAC technicians is crucial for you to enjoy comfort at home all year round. Here’s why working with our team at Cencal is a smart move:

  • Expertise & Skill: With decades of experience serving the Central Valley, we know the ins and outs of California’s climate and how it affects your system.
  • Routine Maintenance: Regular checks can catch problems early, saving you money in the long run. Our AC tune-ups start at just $89, and include a comprehensive multi-point inspection of your system to make sure there are no impending issues.
  • Safety Assurance: Our total satisfaction promise helps ensure your equipment is functioning safely and efficiently. We never consider our work finished until you’ve approved it.
  • Customized Solutions: Our professionals tailor heating and cooling solutions to your specific needs. We don’t just consider the climate—we also consider your home, lifestyle, and comfort preferences to provide solutions that work for you.

California’s weather can be as complex as it is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean your comfort should suffer. Now that you know how the climate impacts your heating and cooling systems, you can take actionable steps to stay cozy and cost-effective.

Contact Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air to make sure your HVAC system is prepared to deal with everything our state can throw at it. Here’s to enjoying your California home, come rain or shine!

Having a reliable furnace is crucial, especially during the colder months. But how do you know when it’s time to replace your furnace?

In this guide, our team at Cencal Mechanical covers the nine key signs that indicate you need a furnace replacement. Understanding these signs can save you time, money, and discomfort, as well as ensure your home stays cozy and warm when you need it most.

Table of Contents

  • Age of the Furnace
  • Frequent Repairs
  • Increasing Energy Bills
  • Uneven Heating
  • Strange Noises
  • Poor Air Quality
  • Difficulty Starting
  • Fluctuating Thermostat
  • Visible Rust and Cracks
  • FAQ

Your Furnace Is Too Old

The age of your furnace is a critical factor in determining if it needs to be replaced. Most furnaces have a lifespan of around 15-20 years. Operating an outdated furnace could lead to inefficiencies, more frequent breakdowns, and higher energy costs.

How to Tell if Your Furnace Is Too Old

  • Check the manufacturing date on the furnace unit.
  • Review your maintenance and service records to find its installation date.
  • Take notice if your furnace is suffering from frequent breakdowns despite regular maintenance.

HVAC technician repairing old furnace that needs to be replaced

Your Furnace Needs Constant Repairs

If your furnace requires repairs frequently, it may be a sign that its components are failing. Frequent repairs not only cost you money but also indicate that the furnace is reaching the end of its life.

Signs Your Furnace Isn’t Worth Repairing Anymore

  • You have repair invoices dating back less than two years but more frequent than before.
  • You’re familiar with your HVAC technician because they are at your home often.
  • Replacement parts are becoming more challenging to find or increasingly expensive.

Your Energy Bills Are Increasing

A significant increase in energy bills could mean your furnace is losing its efficiency (especially if your usage habits haven’t changed). When a furnace ages, it has to work harder to produce the same amount of heat, consuming more energy in the process.

Signs That Your Furnace Is Driving Up Your Energy Bills

  • Energy bills from the same periods in previous years are significantly lower.
  • You haven’t changed your heating habits, but your bills are rising.
  • Other electrical appliances and systems in your home are not the cause of the increase (if you haven’t made any significant upgrades recently, this probably isn’t the issue).

Couple using space heater in cold room due to uneven heating from furnace that needs to be replaced

Your Home Is Getting Uneven Heating

A properly functioning furnace should distribute heat evenly throughout your home. If some rooms are colder than others, it may indicate that your furnace can’t pull its weight anymore and needs to go.

How to Tell If the Furnace Isn’t Heating Your Home Evenly

  • Some rooms are significantly colder than others.
  • You find yourself adjusting vents often or having to use space heaters in particular rooms.
  • You’ve checked for drafts, but the issue persists.

You Hear Strange Noises

Furnaces often make some noise during operation, but strange or loud noises like banging, popping, or screeching could indicate serious problems requiring immediate attention.

How to Recognize Urgent Furnace Noises

  • You hear unusual noises when the furnace starts, runs, or stops.
  • The noises have become louder or more frequent over time.
  • Simple things like changing your thermostat settings and changing the air filter don’t resolve the noise issue.

Homeowner removing dust from around vent in home with poor indoor air quality due to outdated furnace that needs replacement

You’re Getting Poor Air Quality

An aging or malfunctioning furnace may not filter air as effectively as a new model with higher efficiency, leading to poorer indoor air quality. This can exacerbate health issues like allergies and asthma.

Your Furnace Might Be Impacting Your Air Quality If…

  • You see increased dust accumulation around vents and in living spaces.
  • Family members are experiencing respiratory issues or allergies.
  • You notice a musty or burning smell when the furnace is on.

Your Furnace Has Difficulty Starting

If your furnace has trouble starting or frequently turns on and off, it could be a sign of a larger internal issue. This pattern is known as “short-cycling” and can place extra strain on the furnace, eventually wearing it out entirely.

Signs that Your Furnace Is Struggling to Get Fired Up

  • The furnace struggles to start when you adjust the thermostat.
  • You hear clicking sounds but no ignition.
  • The furnace starts but turns off shortly after, before adequately heating your home.

Homeowner adjusting fluctuating thermostat in home that needs furnace replacement

Your Thermostat Is Fluctuating

If you find yourself constantly adjusting the thermostat to maintain a comfortable temperature, it could mean your furnace isn’t operating efficiently. A fluctuating thermostat often indicates issues with heat distribution, which could mean that your furnace is the wrong size and needs to be replaced (or professionally serviced at the very least).

How to Recognize a Fluctuating Thermostat

  • Frequent adjustments to the thermostat are needed to maintain comfort.
  • The thermostat readings are inconsistent with how warm or cold the room feels.
  • Even after adjusting the thermostat, some rooms remain uncomfortably cold or hot.

Your Heating Equipment Has Visible Rust & Cracks

Visible signs of rust, cracks, or corrosion are significant red flags. These could lead to leaks and are often symptomatic of a deteriorating furnace that needs replacing.

Signs of Physical Furnace Damage

  • Obvious rust or corrosion on the furnace or its components.
  • Water pooling near the furnace, indicating potential leaks.
  • Visible cracks in the furnace casing or flue pipes.

Understanding these nine signs can help you make an informed decision about whether to replace your furnace. It’s always good to consult with professionals if you encounter any of these issues, so give our team at Cencal a call. We’ll help you enjoy a well-maintained, efficient furnace that not only saves you money but also keeps your home warm and comfortable throughout the year.

Frequently Asked Questions about Furnace Replacement

How Much Does Furnace Replacement Cost?

The cost of replacing a furnace can vary widely depending on several factors, including:

  • Furnace Type: Gas furnaces are generally more expensive than electric ones, but they almost always cost less to run (since electricity in California costs more than natural gas).
  • Efficiency Rating: Higher-efficiency models are pricier but can save you money in the long run on energy bills.
  • Installation Complexity: The more complicated the installation, the higher the labor costs will be.
  • Additional Components: If you need to replace other parts like the thermostat or air ducts, that will also add to the costs involved.

When you contact Cencal about replacing your furnace, we’ll ask you a few quick questions to get an idea of your home’s needs and provide a quote for the work involved.

How Long Does Replacing a Furnace Take?

Replacing a furnace typically takes anywhere from 4 to 10 hours, depending on the complexity of the installation. If new ductwork is needed or if modifications need to be made to your existing setup, it could take longer. We’ll give you a timeline for any furnace replacement we perform so that you know what to expect.

Do I Need New Ducts If I Replace My Furnace?

In most cases, you won’t need new ducts when you replace your furnace. However, if your existing ductwork is old, damaged, or not properly sized for the new furnace, then you may need to consider replacing or upgrading it. Inefficient ductwork can significantly impact your new furnace’s performance and efficiency.

How Much Money Can I Save by Replacing My Old Furnace with a New One?

Upgrading to a more efficient furnace can provide significant savings on your energy bills. The efficiency of furnaces is measured by their Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. For example, if you’re upgrading from a furnace with an AFUE of 70% to one with an AFUE of 95%, you could see a substantial reduction in energy consumption.

For an average California home, replacing an old furnace with a high-efficiency model can save approximately $200 to $400 per year on heating costs. The actual savings can vary depending on several factors like your home’s insulation, the local climate, and current energy rates.

Remember, while a higher-efficiency furnace may cost more upfront, the long-term savings can make it a worthwhile investment.

Furnaces provide powerful heat for your home during the coldest months of the year, while heat pumps offer versatile heating and cooling from a single piece of equipment. But what’s the best way to heat your California home—a furnace or a heat pump? You’re in the right place to find out.

As your friendly neighborhood HVAC experts here at Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air, we’ve performed installations for new heat pumps and furnaces throughout the Central Valley. Let us help you make an informed decision about your new home comfort equipment by comparing the pros and cons of each system below.

What’s the Difference Between a Heat Pump and a Furnace?

Think of a furnace as a fireplace that’s been upgraded for the 21st century, and a heat pump as a magic box that can make both hot air and cold. Furnaces burn fuel to create heat, typically using natural gas, propane, or oil. Heat pumps, on the other hand, use electricity to move heat from one place to another—from the outside to the inside in the winter, and vice versa in the summer. That’s right; heat pumps can also act as air conditioners in those hot California summers!

But while heat pumps offer exciting capabilities to homeowners, that doesn’t mean furnaces are obsolete. Figuring out what type of heating equipment is best for you comes down to your comfort preferences, fuel availability, your budget, and more.

Pros & Cons of Each System At a Glance

Like everything in life, both furnaces and heat pumps have their benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a quick overview:

Technician installing new furnace in home
Furnaces

Pros

  • Can deliver powerful heat—even when it’s frigid outside
  • Cost-effective if you have easy access to a natural gas supply
  • New high-efficiency models can approach the energy efficiency heat pumps offer

Cons

  • Generally less energy-efficient than heat pumps (especially older models)
  • Burning fuel produces carbon emissions
  • Not eligible for heat-pump-specific rebates

Bosch heat pump outside home

Heat Pumps

Pros

  • More efficient than the majority of central furnaces (especially older ones)
  • Use electricity instead of burning fuel (eliminating carbon emissions)
  • New heat pump installations may make you eligible for rebates in California

Cons

  • Slower to provide heat than central furnaces
  • Using electricity to produce heat typically costs more than natural gas
  • Not as energy efficient in particularly cold climates

Are Furnaces or Heat Pumps More Energy Efficient?

In terms of overall energy efficiency, heat pumps take the trophy over central furnaces. They move heat instead of generating it, which uses less energy. In the right conditions, a high-quality heat pump can transfer over three times as much energy as it uses.

Furnaces, however, are catching up—many new models can be up to 95% efficient. It’s also important to note that some heat pumps have supplementary systems like electric heating elements that they use to produce heat during particularly cold periods, where there is not enough heat available outdoors to transfer into your home. This generally isn’t a problem in the Central Valley—but during freak cold snaps, relying on these supplementary systems can make a heat pump less efficient.

Comparing the Costs of Furnaces & Heat Pumps

Installation Costs

When it comes to upfront costs, furnaces tend to be less expensive. A new heat pump from a quality brand usually costs about two-thirds more to install than a comparable central furnace, including parts and labor.

However, the exact costs of installing a new furnace or heat pump will depend on many factors, including:

  • The condition and complexity of your home’s existing ductwork
  • The quality of your insulation
  • The heating capacity required by your home
  • The accessibility of the installation location

When you contact us, we’ll be able to provide you with a recommendation based on your needs and give you an accurate quote for the heating equipment that will serve you best.

Long-Term Operating Costs

The lower operating costs of a heat pump can help offset their initial costs over time, especially with the rising cost of fossil fuels. For example, switching from a gas furnace to a heat pump has the potential to decrease your monthly heating costs by over 30% under ideal circumstances—but it’s critical to note that this number can fluctuate significantly depending on current energy prices and climate conditions.

Generally, however, California’s mild climate allows heat pumps to function effectively in the winter and provide consistent savings—especially over older central furnaces. Yes, if you were living in the ice-cold corners of Alaska, a heat pump might struggle to keep up with the extreme cold. But here in the Golden State, where winters are mild, a heat pump can provide comfortable and efficient heating.

Bosch heat pumps on white background

When to Buy a Heat Pump or Central Furnace for Your California Home

Given the above, there are distinct circumstances when it makes more sense to invest in either a heat pump or a central furnace. Here are some points to help you make your decision:

Consider a Heat Pump If…

  • You want to reduce your carbon footprint: Remember, heat pumps don’t burn fossil fuels like central furnaces do.
  • You’re okay spending more up front for long-term savings: If you’d rather pay more now and enjoy lower monthly utility bills, a heat pump could be the answer.
  • You’re confident that you won’t face extreme cold anytime soon: This should be true for pretty much everyone in California’s Central Valley—but if you’re really worried about cold snaps, you might be more comfortable with a central furnace system.

Consider a Central Furnace If…

  • You have access to natural gas: If your home is already connected to a natural gas line, you’ve got access to a fairly efficient fuel source, and the money you’d save each month with a heat pump might not justify the switch over your equipment’s projected lifespan.
  • You pay a high rate for electricity: The downside to not using fossil fuels is that heat pumps can be expensive to run in homes that pay high electricity rates. Since California’s electricity prices are higher than the US average, it’s worth checking with us to make sure a heat pump will be cost-effective for you before buying one.
  • You’re worried about record-breaking winter temperatures: Weather can be unpredictable, so if you want a heating system that can deliver reliable comfort in unexpectedly cold conditions, a central furnace may give you more peace of mind.

Other Considerations When Buying New Heating Equipment

How Old Is Your Current Heating System?

Most furnaces become significantly less efficient after 10 years and start to experience consistent performance issues around age 15 or so. If your system is on its last legs or doesn’t heat your home effectively, it might be time to say adios and invest in a new system.

What Kind of Maintenance Will You Do?

Both heat pumps and furnaces require regular maintenance to operate at their best. Furnaces need annual heating tune-ups, while heat pumps should be checked twice a year due to their dual heating and cooling functions (once in the spring and once in the fall).

Can You Qualify For a Rebate?

Heat pump buyers who purchase through Cencal Mechanical can save up to $3,000 on a new heat pump, with up to $750 in utilities, $2000 in tax credit, and $250 instate rebate. We also include 3 years of free maintenance when you get a new heat pump installed.

Choosing the Home Comfort Solution that Works for You

We hope this guide helps clear up the heat pump vs. furnace debate. But remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re still unsure, Contact Cencal Mechanical Heating & Air and we’ll help you make the best choice for your home. Happy heating, folks!

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