The furnace is 40 years old and she was told that it might not last much longer. I don't know if there is any concrete reason for that assertion. I think she is afraid the furnace will fail and she would be without heat. Utility bills also play a part, but as you stated, it can take a long time to recoup the outlay. My own feeling is that she should leave the furnace alone. It could last another two years or more for all we know. She doesn't seem amenable to that idea though.