Being a homeowner means that at some point in the future you will need to replace a furnace, air conditioner and water heater – hopefully not all in the same year. Knowing the age of your equipment will help you plan a budget for replacing them.
Determining their age is a relatively straightforward process. First of all, the go to website for almost all home inspectors is the Building Intelligence Center website: https://www.building-center.org/. This resource will help you decode the serial numbers on the equipment.
Water Heater: On the tank, look for a data plate. Some manufacturers make it easy and will state the month and year of manufacture right on the data plate. Here is a Rheem water heater that does just that.
And then there are some manufacturers where you will have to decode the serial number. Bradford White is one of those. Note the serial numbers and then go to the Building Intelligence Center website.
Furnace: To find the data plate on a furnace you usually need to remove the front cover. If there are two covers, it usually is the top one. Sometimes there is a data plate on the exterior. Once you see the data plate, just like the water heater, the month and year of manufacture will be noted or you will need to decode the serial number at the Building Intelligence Center website.
Air Conditioner: With the AC, the unit on the outside (condenser) will have the data plate. Sometimes it is at the top of the unit, sometimes you will need to get on your hands and knees to see it. Then it is just like your furnace. Either it will state the year of manufacture on the data plate or you will need to look up the serial number at the Building Intelligence Center website.
So now that you know the age, what is the typical lifespan of this equipment? Lifespan is dependent on a number of factors, including but not limited to routine maintenance, water quality, regularly changing the filter, etc.…but broadly speaking, the lifespans are as follows:
Furnace: 15-20 years
Air Conditioner: 15-20 years
Water Heater: 8-12 years
I am a home inspector and a lover of old houses, dogs and mountains.
Jill Hauk Home Inspections, LLC
1000 Giles Street, Stoughton, WI 53589
Home Inspector in Madison, Stoughton, DeForest, Waunakee, Sun Prairie, Cross Plains, Middleton, Monona, Cottage Grove, Verona, Fitchburg, McFarland, Mount Horeb, Brooklyn, Janesville, Evansville, Oregon, Edgerton, Fort Atkinson, Jefferson, Lake Mills, Cambridge, Windsor, Johnson Creek and everywhere in between