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Just throwing in my 2 cents here. What I have always done on an older furnace like this, on a home purchase inspection, is tell the client this: "The furnace is older than 15 years, and has exceeded it's life expectancy. It looks to be (neglected, maintained, completely fried, in amazingly great) condition. It is (running, not running, dying, in great shape for it's age), but every day from now on is a gift from the furnace gods.

I think that once a furnace or water heater or ac unit is that old, an exact age isn't required. AM I way off base here? I've never had a client complain that they didn't get the build date of an old appliance.

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How old does it look? Take a look at it, pay attention to the industrial design elements (colors, lettering, etc.), and pick a ten-year range.

Then look at the serial number and find two numbers that fit into your ten-year range.

If it looks like a 1991 gizmo, and you find 91 in the serial number, you've probably got a 1991 gizmo.

Maybe it's just me, but I've never believed that I owe a customer a born-on date for a piece of equipment. I break appliances and machines down into four categories: fairly new, old, somewhere in the middle, and I don't know.

My slug line to customers: If it breaks while it's under warranty, call the vendor or the manufacturer. If it breaks down after the warranty runs out, you'll just have to buy a new one...


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I assume you are talking about a gas furnace; we don't have the Dearborn brand locally so I'm not familiar with it. On gas furnaces, I always look at the gas control valve on the unit itself. They generally have a 4-digit code, with the first two numbers being the year it was manufactured. That will be within a year of the date of the furnace itself. Sometimes, the other electronic devices inside will also have date codes on their labels.

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Great advice from previous posts. There are many different ways to find the age of a unit without knowing how to decipher the serial number. Other examples are serial numbers on the top of the compressor itself and on expansion tanks, on relief valve tags, etc.

Like Walter, I don't feel obligated to provide an exact age, and it's also not required by NJ state law. I just skip that part of the software or describe it another way. I don't have a Preston's and don't plan on buying one.

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I am in agreement with you and Neal. I like to break them down into: stone on stone ignition, flint on stone ignition, wood to wood ignition, match to wood ignition, match to gas ignition, standing pilot, electronic ignition and solar. That way I can't be pinned down to anything by the lady driving the Cadillac. "Oh Les, Henry just put a new furnace in recently so it can't be 15yrs old. He has only been dead for 10yrs or so."

I try to keep my guess in the five year range, if no numbers are available.

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