I live in a 20 year old house and for sure the heating system was not very energy efficient. And I knew that I had some serious problems. So rather than wait I decided to investigate what was available BEFORE I had that terrible emergency. And I am glad that I did! I learned a couple of things right away. The first was that most people wait until their system stops working altogether before they call the serviceman. Of course at that point you are at the mercy of the serviceman and whatever equipment is available. The other is that you can pay now or pay later? Well what that means is that if you have an older system that is not very energy efficient, you are paying way too much in your energy consumption per month. And as energy prices increase, it hurts you worse. An energy efficient system will pay for itself in reduced energy consumption. And you will also save as energy prices increase.
Obviously there are many people out there willing to take advantage of you and selling you something that you do not need! As with anything, buyer beware!
My original setup was a gas boiler that was used to heat my domestic hot water, hot water for my heat pump backup, and heat my small shop. So I had a huge water tank that was used to store the domestic hot water. I had it set at 120 degrees to reduce my energy consumption. I was paying a whooping $371.99 per month! (combined propane gas and electric, a 5 year average figure)
I had about 5 different estimates for all kinds of systems. I had one company tell me that I could get a geothermal unit for just a little more that a conventional system because of all the available rebates and tax credits. So my prices ranged from about $8,000 to $30,000. Quite a range! Well it did not take me long to figure out that the geothermal unit was not for me. It would reduce your energy consumption more than any other, but the tax advantages were not for me. I would not live long enough to write all of that off on my taxes. You have to have a lot of tax liability for that to work. And even though it would reduce energy consumption the most, I still would not live long enough to see the payback.