The Clear Choice.......
 Tauscher, Cronacher

Anthony J. Grieco, Licensed & Registered Architect

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"What is the age of the 
 heating unit?"

A simple question.... and the simple answer to is this- If the steel boiler or furnace is more than 20 years old or the heat pump is more that 10 years old you should plan on replacing the system.    
see Normal Life Expectancies and the discussion below.

Warning!!-- Rules of thumb are useful however the guideline must be balanced with how the heating unit was fabricated and type of materials used as well as its physical condition and level of maintenance. Guidelines are no substitution for a professional inspection.  

The age of the heating unit is a good indicator for anticipating the level of repairs, estimating when replacement will be needed, and the level of reserve funds needed for repairs and/or replacement.  A reserve fund is the balance in your savings account after closing, moving, decorating, and other expenses are paid and will be needed for repairing immediate deficiencies or replacement them.  

A heating system uses energy (oil, natural gas, LP gas, electricity, solar, or the heat in water or air) for heating a home.  The heating unit (either a boiler, furnace, electric baseboard, or heat pump system) converts the energy into heat and distributes the heat within the home.  A boiler is used in steam or hot water heated homes, whereas a furnace or heat pump which consists of a condensing unit that contains a compressor, and air handling unit) is used for hot air systems. Typically electrically heated homes use permanently mounted electric heaters in each room.

Boilers are fabricated using either steel plates that are  welded together or cast iron sections that are mechanically joined, hence the name steel boiler or cast iron boiler.  Furnaces are  fabricated using welded steel plates or stainless steel.  

The  symbol or lack of a symbol on the boiler name plate will indicate the type of boiler.  "IBR" indicates a cast iron boiler and "SBI" or no symbol indicates a steel boiler.  Unless the furnace is labeled with a notice that the heat exchange is stainless steel or guaranteed for life (read the warranty for restrictions) furnaces are steel units.

The following useful life expectancy guidelines are averages and averages are affected by the quality and thickness of the metal, welding method and workmanship,  amount of usage, quality of maintenance, environmental conditions (like dampness,  corrosive water, etc.).  The general accepted life for steel constructed units is 15 to 20 years and cast iron units 40 to 50 years.  Heat pump systems have an average life of 10 years.

The bottom line is this-- if your dream home has a twenty to twenty five year old boiler that looks  like it's on it last leg , for a cast iron unit the deterioration indicates a lack of maintenance and with proper serving will serve you for the next 15 to 25 years or if it's a steel unit you should increase your reserve fund by the total cost for replacing the unit.  For steel furnace over twenty years and heat pump system over ten years old full replacement cost should be included in  your reserve fund.  

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