Equipment Lifetimes


Efficiencies typically degrade as equipment ages. If an expensive repair is required, it may make more sense to replace the equipment rather than repair it. Another factor to consider is the new equipment warranty which can include lifetime replacement coverage for heat exchangers and 10 years parts and labor warranties.

Action Heating & Cooling has testing equipment that determines the real efficiency of your equipment and whether replacement should be considered now or some time in the future. We also have up-front pricing to compare the repair cost vs. equipment replacement.


I. High Efficiency –High efficiency furnaces usually need to be replaced every 15-18 years. Factors that will help your equipment last longer:

  • Proper sizing
  • Proper installation
  • Proper controls
  • Proper ductwork sizing
  • Proper maintenance
  • Proper equipment protection

II. Normal Efficiency – We have seen equipment as old as 40 years. However, the actual efficiency is so low, the homeowner loses money by keeping the equipment in use.


A properly maintained boiler can last a long time, and efficiency may be more of an issue than reliability. Older boilers can have efficiencies of 60% or less. New boilers come in efficiencies as high as 99%!

Air Conditioning and Air Source Heat Pumps

An Air Conditioner or Air Source Heat Pump should last 12 to 16 years, depending on its location’s conditions and how well it was maintained. However, just like other equipment, a major repair may not be worth the cost when compared to replacing with a new system that would be under warranty. An Air Conditioner’s efficiency rating is called its SEER (Service Energy Efficiency Rating). An Air Source Heat Pump may be rated with a COP (Coefficient of Production). In both cases, the higher the rating number, the higher the efficiency. Many older air conditioners were in the 6 to 8 SEER range. Before 2006, the most common SEER rating was 10. As of January, 2006, the lowest SEER rating that can be MANUFACTURED is 13 SEER.

Equipment Features (How to Compare)

Geothermal Heat Pumps

I. Action Heating & Cooling Does Geothermal the Right Way. It’s just that simple. But geothermal isn’t easy and your contractor needs to know what he or she is doing. All HVAC basics must be done properly. The contractor must be knowledgeable about loop sizing issues, refrigeration-based processes and high level control requirements in order for geothermal to work right all the time. We know this and our systems work all the time. They not only deliver the comfort that was promised but also meet or exceed the targeted savings we projected when proposing the system. We have over 70 systems installed and have not yet lost a compressor. That’s because all parts of the systems are properly designed and installed.
II. Read more about geothermal in this section of our general heating and cooling web site OR go to our Geothermal Dedicated Website – – to learn more!
III. When considering replacing an existing furnace or boiler, you should realize that another option exists that can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs. A Geothermal Heat Pump can replace many boilers and most furnaces. We will gladly do a free evaluation of your home to see if this makes sense for you. Our evaluation will include a preliminary proposal and a financial/energy analysis that will show you the expected savings and payback period. The best time to consider geothermal is when building a new home or business OR when your existing equipment is due for replacement. Our Water Furnace Geothermal Systems qualify for a 30% Federal Tax Credit on the cost of the entire heating and cooling system. We also have other rebates available which make this investment a very practical option for you to seriously consider. We can also offer you “One Year Same as Cash” financing which, if approved, allows you to get your Federal Tax Rebate back before you have to pay for your system. During that first year of Same-as-Cash financing, you’re already saving money with geothermal.
IV. At current rates, a Geothermal Heat Pump will save you about 70% over the highest efficiency furnace or boiler. As gas prices go up, this savings will increase.
V. Water or Forced Air Geothermal Systems – Geothermal systems come in two main configurations:

  • Forced air systems that convert energy from the earth into warm air for heating or cool air for cooling. These are often called ground to air systems.
  • Water systems that convert energy from the earth into warm (up to 120 degree) water for heating. These are called ground to water systems and work well in radiant heat applications.

VI. Packaged or Split systems – Forced air geothermal systems can be totally contained in a single equipment cabinet (packaged) that includes the compressor, air coil, water coil and blower motor. OR it can be configured as a split system which would be hooked up to a furnace much like a normal air conditioner. A split system uses a furnace’s blower for air movement and its burner as a third, or emergency, heating “stage”. A packaged system would include an electric heat strip as a third or emergency stage and would completely replace a furnace and air conditioning condenser in a forced air system.
VII. Compressor Stages – A major component of a geothermal system is the compressor. A geothermal heat pump has either a single or dual stage compressor. In our climate, and for residential applications, it often makes sense to use a two-stage compressor, which allows for heating with both stages and cooling with only the first stage. This allows for properly sized air conditioning with associated dehumidification.
VIII. Domestic Hot Water Assist is another option to consider when purchasing a geothermal system. This option reduces water heating costs by using excess heat to generate hot water. We know when it makes sense to consider hot water assist and can show you the numbers to help you with your decision.
IX. We include intellistart on all our geothermal systems. This option reduces the initial amount of power required to start the heat pump’s compressor.
X. Geothermal Loops – Ground source heating systems use a geothermal loop to “pull” energy from the Earth when heating or push energy into the earth when cooling. Loops can be either closed or open. In Wisconsin, a closed loop system is the most common. A closed loop can be either horizontal or vertical. Horizontal loops are typically less expensive than vertical loops but require more yard or lot area. Horizontal loops also require certain soil conditions in order to have the required amount of capacity for your heating and cooling needs.


I. Regular or High Efficiency

  • Furnace efficiency denotes the “split” between the fuel costs that actually heat a home vs. the costs that go ‘up the chimney’ or out the vent pipe. A 95% efficient furnace delivers $95 of every $100 in fuel costs to the home in the form of heat. The remaining $5 is lost in the exhaust stream of the furnace. Contrast that with an old, 60% furnace. Only $60 of that $100 will be used to heat the home. $40 will go ‘up the chimney’. With today’s energy costs, that total dollar loss can be very high.
  • Highest efficiency equipment may qualify for Focus on Energy rebates and Federal tax credits! This, combined with fuel savings, may justify the added initial expense IF you are going to be in the home long enough for the payback.

II. Stainless Steel or Aluminized Primary Heat exchangers. Stainless steel primary heat exchangers cost more but last longer. Primary heat exchanger failures are a major cause of having to replace high efficiency furnaces. Making the additional investment in a furnace that has both primary and secondary stainless steel heat exchangers might make sense. A major input to this decision is how long you intend to stay in your current home.
III. ECM Blower Motors (variable speed) cost more initially but cost much less to operate. They allow the homeowner to let the blower run continuously while saving money on electrical costs. This feature also improves air quality and comfort in your home. These motors are quiet and automatically adjust speed to provide proper air flow in your home. We now also have furnaces that utilize the X-13 blower motor which is a single speed blower that uses a small amount of electrical energy as does the ECM blower motor. IV. Modulating Furnaces – We have modulating furnaces available for you to consider. These furnaces will modulate to as little as 25% for full fire and (based on the installation and manufacturer) will have from 3 to an infinite number of “stages” from lowest fire to highest fire settings. These furnaces do a better job of maintaining the temperature settings, even during periods of relatively low heating requirements. They use this same capability to serve zoned homes better by matching their output to the size of the heating zone being served. The potential for “over run” to occur when serving a single zone is significantly reduced with this technology.
V. Two-Stage Gas Valves save money and deliver a more even room temperature than a single stage furnace by adjusting the output of the furnace to the current heating demand. A furnace has to be “sized” for the coldest possible day of the year, yet this capacity is needed for less than 10% of the heating season. A two-stage gas valve starts the furnace in first stage, which runs at 80% of full fire. (A 75,000 BTU furnace with 2-stage gas valve will start at 60,000 BTUs in first stage.) If the furnace runs for 10 minutes without “satisfying” the heating requirement, the furnace will automatically change to second stage and run at full fire until the targeted room temperature is achieved.
VI. Single-Stage Furnaces have only one firing rate. They are either on or off. Most installed furnaces are single stage furnaces. If they are 90% or higher, they are considered High Efficiency which primarily means they can be vented (exhausted) using a non-metallic vent. This is because the high efficiency removes most of the heat from the burner process and makes the exhaust cool enough for other, lower cost materials. These furnaces typically have single speed blowers on them as well. These blower systems are referred to as direct drive blowers.

Boiler Systems

I. Efficiency Ratings

  • Boilers are available in efficiency ratings from 80% to 99%. Efficiency ratings above 88% are typically only available in “low temperature” applications. Be careful not to pay a premium for a very high efficiency boiler (98%) when the heating application requires 180 degree water to achieve full heating capacity. In high heat applications, a very high efficiency boiler only achieves efficiencies in the 92 percentile range. Systems with cast iron registers or fin tube, baseboard heat usually require 180 degree water. On the other hand, if a home has radiant heat (in-floor tubing), heating costs can be lowered by installing a very high efficiency boiler. Radiant heat usually needs 120 degree or lower water and takes full advantage of the very high efficiency boiler’s attributes.
  • Higher efficiency boilers tend to require more maintenance and have also been shown to have shorter service life spans. We can help you determine if a high efficiency boiler makes sense for you
  • A high efficiency boiler has special installation requirements to make sure it achieves its efficiency ratings and gives you the maximum years of service possible.

II. Condensing or Non-Condensing Boilers.

  • Very high efficiency boilers that are designed to run at lower water temperatures are called condensing boilers. The exhaust air stream is cooled during the process of pulling heat into the boiler water to a temperature low enough to cause condensation to form inside the boiler. The boiler is designed to drain this condensation away. Most of these boilers qualify for Focus on Energy rebates and/or Federal Tax Credits as long as they are also installed with a control package referred to as “Outdoor Reset” and as long as your gas utility is participating in Focus on Energy.
  • 80% to 85% efficient boilers are called non-condensing boilers and require the water temperature in the boiler to stay above 160 degrees so condensation won’t occur (which can shorten the life expectancy of a non-condensing boiler. We can design “boiler protection” for a system so the boiler is protected against damage from condensation.) These boilers are generally less expensive to install than very high efficiency boilers. If you have a cast iron boiler that is very rusty after a few years’ use, it’s possible it is not installed properly and is running below the condensing threshold too often.

III. Boiler Heat Exchanger Types

  • Most non-condensing boiler heat exchangers are made of cast iron. The best cast iron boilers have flexible cast iron heat exchangers with a high tolerance for water temperature changes. Cast iron heat exchangers are customarily thicker in design and weigh more than other heat exchanger types. As a result, these types of boilers are usually heavier and take longer to heat up.
  • Stainless steel heat exchangers are normally used in high efficiency, condensing boilers. They are small, have thin walls, and are lightweight. They heat up very quickly and do a good job of transferring heat rapidly from flame to water. Most stainless steel heat exchanger boilers are around 92% efficient. Small sizes can be mounted on a wall, while sizes greater than 80,000 BTUs are usually floor standing. Proper water flow is very important to proper performance and longer life. Make sure your contractor knows the requirements of installing a high efficiency boiler. There is more to it than just replacing a cast iron boiler and hooking up to the same piping. These boilers heat up very rapidly and can damage themselves if adequate flow across the heat exchanger is not maintained.
  • An aluminum heat exchanger is the newest and most expensive type. They are used only in very high efficiency boilers and are available in efficiencies as high as 99%. These boilers are lightweight and usually wall mounted. Again, proper water flow is very important to proper performance and longer life. Make sure your contractor knows the requirements of installing a high efficiency boiler. There is more to it than just replacing a cast iron boiler and hooking up to the same piping. These boilers heat up very rapidly and can damage themselves if adequate flow across the heat exchanger is not maintained. In addition, if your system has antifreeze in it, it needs to be compatible with aluminum components.

IV. Gas Valve Types

  • Most non-condensing boilers have single stage gas valves. Some have two-stage gas valves which operate very similarly to two- stage furnaces (please see above).
  • Most very high efficiency boilers have modulating gas valves that vary the output of the boiler based on the current heating demand. These valves, and their related boiler components, are more expensive than ‘standard’ parts.

V. Other Boiler System Options

  • Outdoor Reset saves money by reducing the water temperature based on outdoor temperature. As the outdoor temperature increases, the outdoor reset control decreases the water temperature supplied by the boiler. Of course, this all needs to be done within the design constraints of the boiler being used.
  • Zoning allows individual temperature controls in different areas of your home by using zone valves or separate circulator pumps for each zone on the system.
  • Indirect Domestic Hot Water – This water heater uses a boiler’s heat to make hot water for the home. These systems typically have 3-4 times the performance characteristics of a gas fired hot water heater and run more efficiently. (Gas fired hot water heaters are normally around 60% efficient.)
  • Grade of Air Elimination System –The air elimination system automatically removes air from the boiler system to allow for quiet, smooth operation. These systems vary significantly in quality and performance capabilities. Air trapped in the water system can corrode parts and also stop flow by collecting at a high point and creating a pressure lock on a circuit in the hydronic system. Boiler systems need to be designed to allow for easy flushing of all the independent circuits of the boiler piping. A typical way for some contractors to cut the cost is to not properly equip a system with these features. The lack of these features will show up in the future when the boiler needs service. Service charges will be much higher to allow for time wasted in trying to flush the air out of the system.
  • Type and Size of Expansion Tank – There are different grades and sizes of expansion tanks, which allow for expansion of water in the boiler system as the water is heated. These should be sized to the volume of water in the boiler system as well as the BTU rating of the boiler(s). They also need to be properly installed so they last.

Air Conditioning and Air Source Heat Pumps

I. Types of Compressors – The compressor is the refrigeration “pump’ that is located in the condenser or heat pump section of your air conditioner (a/c) or hybrid (air source heat pump) system. This is the unit located outside of your home. It is the single most expensive part of the a/c or heat pump system.

  • The compressor type that has been around the longest is the Reciprocating (or “piston”) Compressor. This compressor looks much like a small engine for a lawn mower in that it has a crankshaft and piston(s) that pump the refrigerant through your a/c system. Manufacturers will offer lesser compressor warranties on these compressors. They have many moving parts, are the nosiest of the two compressor types and are normally seen in lower cost/lower quality models of air conditioners. Today, there are very few manufacturers still using reciprocating compressors for air conditioning or air source heat pumps.
  • The newest type and now, by far, the most common of compressor is the Scroll Compressor. It uses two machined “pin wheels” that fit together to pump refrigerant through your a/c system. These compressors have only 25% of the moving part that a reciprocating compressor has. They are, therefore, quieter and typically come with a longer manufacturers’ warranty. They are usuallyy more efficient and are more or less required to meet today’s higher efficiency standards.
  • Most condensers with a SEER rating of 14 or lower are a Single Stage Compressor. This means the compressor pumps refrigerant on only one speed and therefore cools at only one rate.
  • Higher efficiency condensers (SEER rating 15 or above) are available with either Single Stage or Two Stage Compressors. If Two Stage, they require a two stage control system (thermostat or timer) to manage when the a/c runs in first or second stage.

II. Condenser Cabinets – There is a big difference in the quality of cabinets. The lowest cost cabinets use metal or plastic screen to protect the condenser coil. The higher quality cabinets use louvered metal panels which offer better protection.
III. Evaporator Coils – This is the “radiator” like component that is installed above the furnace in the basement. Coils come in different SEER ratings. High rated coils will save you on cooling bills but cost considerably more. They will also dehumidify better. Make sure you understand the grade of evaporator coil being installed in your system.
IV. Thermostatic Expansion Valve (TXV) – This is a device that improves the performance of the a/c system by regulating the refrigerant flow to a more precise and correct amount. It is located by the evaporator coil in you furnace ductwork. These are required on some higher SEER a/c’s but can be added to almost any system to improve its energy performance. Most of our installations include a TXV with the equipment we have proposed.

Air Source Heat Pumps

An Air Source Heat Pump is an appliance very similar to a standard air conditioner but also includes a device called a reversing valve. In addition, it includes control devices which will kick it into defrost mode during heating calls if the coil starts to get infused with ice. The reversing valve actually reverses the refrigeration process and allows the Air Source Heat Pump to both cool and heat your home. These systems are often referred to as Hybrid Systems because they can use an electric appliance to heat your home (the Air Source Heat Pump) as well as a gas fired furnace.

The component descriptions are pretty much the same as the air conditioning components with a few additional requirements.

  • The control package must include an outdoor temperature sensor and additional control logic that will “cutover” the system from using the air source heat pump to using the furnace based on outdoor temperature. This can be done by either a high end thermostat or by a zoning panel that includes cutover capabilities. Typically, we want to cut the system over from using the air source heat pump in heating mode if the outdoor temperature falls below 28 degrees F. Below this temperature, it is more efficient to use a furnace to heat your home. Above this temperature, the Air Source Heat Pump is more efficient. This cutover temperature may change based on individual outdoor circumstances or unusual electrical or fuel rates. The control package allows for changes to the cutover point.
  • The TXV must allow for refrigerant to flow both ways when using a heat pump. These TXVs are call Bi-flow TXVs and are automatically included in the design if considering a heat pump installation.

Replacement Process

Our recommended replacement process includes the following steps:

  • Call us to make an appointment for a free, in-home estimate. If appropriate, we can ask you some quick questions over the phone and email, fax or mail you a preliminary proposal so you can study things on your own. If we give you a preliminary proposal, we will need to finalize it before we can start the work.
  • While at your home, we’ll review your current installation and discuss the system’s strengths and weaknesses. We will ask you to share your feelings on issues you have with the current system.
  • We’ll discuss replacement design strategies to consider.
  • We will measure the home and complete a heat loss and/or heat gain calculation to properly size equipment options. Don’t be surprised if we suggest a smaller appliance. It was not uncommon for appliances to be oversized in the past. If oversized, an appliance will short cycle. This causes higher operating costs and shorter equipment service lifetimes.
  • We will present options to consider and will explain each of them.
  • We will check to ensure the new installation will connect and operate properly in your home using existing piping, pumps, ductwork, venting, controls and/or electrical service. If necessary, we will recommend other modifications so the system can operate at peak performance and efficiency.
  • We will offer other indoor air quality options to consider as part of your purchase. Often, this is the best opportunity (during replacement installation) for you to purchase these items at our best price. This is especially the case if considering a geothermal installation.
  • We will offer you financing options.
  • After a decision is made, we will schedule an installation date to assure the smoothest possible cutover from the old equipment to your new comfort system.

Our Product Line

Armstrong Air Furnaces, Air Conditioners and Air Source Heat Pumps

Whirlpool Furnaces, Air Conditioners and Air Source Heat Pumps

Concord Furnaces & Air Conditioners

Water Furnace Geothermal Heat Pumps

Buderus Boilers & Indirect Hot Water Heaters

Burnham Boilers

Munchkin Boilers & Indirect Hot Water Heaters

Bosch, Greenstar Boilers and Tankless Water Heaters

Rehau Radiant Heat System

Honeywell Thermostats

Airscreen 1000 Electronic Air Filters

General Humidifiers

Aprilaire Humidifiers and Air Filters

Premier One Ultra-Violet Air Purifiers


  • Warranties vary based on the grade of equipment and its manufacturer. We will always review warranties with you before your purchase.
  • Warranties cover equipment breakage only. Regular maintenance items (filter replacements, clearing condensate lines, cleaning other parts) are not considered breakage. Please keep this in mind when requesting warranty coverage.
  • All warranties require proof of proper equipment maintenance. Equipment that has not received periodic maintenance may break down and not be covered by a warranty. We suggest an Energy Savings Agreement to ensure equipment is properly maintained.
  • Want an extended warranty on your new equipment? Ask your Action Comfort Representative for a free, no obligations quote.


  • We have a number of financing options available for you to consider. Ask us for more information.