If you’ve ever had a significant problem with your gas powered HVAC system, you’ve probably heard the term “marked red.” (And if you haven’t already, there’s a good chance you will someday, given that most HVAC systems have a lifespan of between 10 and 20 years.)
Whatever the circumstances, the red marking means you need to prioritize repairs immediately.
A red tag can be placed by an HVAC technician or utility company worker. This means that a gas appliance cannot be used safely until a situation is resolved. Gas furnaces, stoves, water heaters and dryers are all subject to a red tag.
Different states and utility companies have their own regulations for how red labeling works, so if you have one, it’s a good idea to find out about your local laws. In some cases, only employees of utility companies can issue a red tag.
Many problems can lead to a red tag. Some of the most common are carbon monoxide leaks, gas leaks, and fire hazards. Many times a cracked heat exchanger is the culprit. Such cracks can allow gas or carbon monoxide or both to flow into the living area, which is extremely dangerous.
Most of the time, red tags will follow one of two types.
Red Type A labels mean the situation is immediately dangerous, such as a gas leak. The technician will shut off your gas immediately until the problem can be resolved.
Type B labels indicate a serious problem without immediate danger. In these cases, you should have the problem fixed as soon as possible, but the gas can still work in the meantime. In some cases, it can be applied by a utility inspector who will ask you to fix the problem within a certain period of time.
Repair costs for furnaces marked in red can vary widely. It could be anything from a poorly sealed line to a broken CPU. Your HVAC professional should be able to provide a detailed explanation of the problem and a written estimate of the work that will need to be done. A cracked heat exchanger typically costs around $ 1,500 to repair.
If your old furnace has been reported with a major problem, it may be better to replace it entirely rather than repair it. A furnace over 15 years old probably needs to be replaced rather than repaired; even if you have kept it in pristine condition and cared for, it will not be left with many years. A new furnace will cost between $ 2,000 and $ 6,000 on average, depending on the size of your home and the type of furnace. Be sure to ask for the cost of the potential replacement when planning a major repair.
If you’re concerned that the red marking may have happened in error, hire another reliable HVAC company for a second opinion.
Tweet your home care questions with #AskAngi and we’ll try to answer them in a future column.