When is it Time to Buy a New Furnace?
Modern high efficiency furnaces use at least 30% less energy and fossil fuel than furnaces of the past, meaning swapping out old models for new technology would cut energy bills and lower your home’s carbon footprint. The U.S. government even offers tax credits to homeowners who install high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. As global oil and natural gas costs rise and sources diminish, it’s time to audit your home’s future energy consumption.
How Gas Furnaces Work
Forced-air heating systems are controlled by a thermostat that detects changes in room temperature. When the thermostat reads below a set temperature, it alerts the furnace that it’s time to kick on. In older models, natural gas is ignited by the system’s pilot light (an electronic ignition is used in newer models), heating a heat exchanger that warms air as it flows through it. The warmed air is channeled through a system of ducts and delivered to rooms via floor, wall, or ceiling vents. High-efficiency furnaces expel leftover combustion gases through a wall, whereas the same gasses are released through a roof-top duct called a flue in older systems.
A new furnace lasts an average of 16-20 years. Checking to see whether or not your unit has a pilot light can be a good indication of how old it is. Electronic ignitions hit the market 20 years ago. If you find a pilot light, your furnace is likely in need of an upgrade. If you aren’t sure whether your unit has an electronic ignition, check the manual for a make and model number. A quick internet search should tell you the year your furnace was manufactured. If your manual is long-gone, a data sticker is typically located in the unit’s burner compartment behind a removeable panel. Look for rust, especially around the unit’s draft hood. The acidic nature of combustion gasses causes corrosion, but a failing system may speed the process. Moisture buildup is another key indicator that a furnace is faulty. Combustion gasses are released are 250-300°F and turn into liquid at 125°F. Various causes cool gas too quickly. A furnace may not be operating at a hot enough temperature or a chimney may have too much surface area to match the exhaust put out by a furnace, leaving an abundance of surface area to cool gas before it has exited.
In extreme cases, cracks in an aging heat exchanger can leak carbon monoxide. Incessant nausea, headache, burning in the eyes, and disorientation may indicate carbon monoxide poisoning. Installing a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace is a good idea. If you suspect a carbon monoxide leak, leave your home and take your pets with you before alerting 911.
‘Tis the Season
In short, the best time to replace a furnace is during warmer months when it is not needed. Just as an air conditioner is more likely to fail in the thick of a heatwave than in dormant winter months, a furnace is most likely to fail in the dead of winter when it’s working at maximum capacity. Fall is a logical time to evaluate your home’s furnace simply because winter preparation is on the mind. An early evaluation will leave plenty of time for installation before the unit is needed. Scheduling a furnace evaluation at the end of spring or during summer will allow for more time to weigh your options and pick the best fit for your home.
How to Choose
Size, budget, and efficiency are all factors that determine which heating system is right for your home. Here are a few guidelines to consider when narrowing down your choices:
- Know your size. A contractor will do an on-site evaluation of your old system and produce a measurement based on BTUs. Everything from window insulation to home size contributes to what size system is recommended.
- Consider cash-back incentives such as manufacturer rebates or tax credits on high-efficiency systems. Some contractors will even fill out the paperwork for you.
- While shopping, look for the yellow “Energy Guide” label. Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) is the standard measurement of a furnace’s efficiency when converting fuel to heat energy. A higher AFUE number means a more efficient unit.
- Find out who knows your system best and have them instal it. A contractor should come to your home for an evaluation of your own unit and to help you choose the new unit that best suits your home. In the event your new system isn’t without bugs, a good system warranty is important, too.
Different parts of your home heat and cool at different rates depending on size, location, and construction. A single-thermostat system detects the temperature in just one part of your home, adjusting the entire system accordingly without taking such zoning factors into account. In zoning systems, a home is divided into sections. Each section has a thermostat that regulates the temperature in that zone exclusively. You can manually regulate different zones by utilizing vent dampers to direct air to one space and cut it off from another.
Split systems use two units, one inside and one on the exterior of the home. The outside compression unit is linked to to a coil installed on top of an indoor furnace unit. The coil removes heat and humidity from inside a home to keep it cool, whereas a furnace uses a flame to heat a heat exchanger that warms passing air. The units share a duct system and are connected by refrigerant lines.
You may choose to ditch your furnace all together. Heat pumps work much like refrigerators, using a system of coils along with a refrigerant absorbs heat from one space and directs it into a different space. By compressing cool outdoor air, the system creates heat that is used to warm indoor air. Heat pumps are extremely energy efficient and use far less electricity than electric furnaces. Most models also operate without the use of fossil fuels.
A duel-fuel system is a hybrid that uses a heat pump in conjunction with a gas furnace. The heat pump is utilized during moderate weather (above 40°F). The gas furnace takes over when temperatures are too low for the heat pump to remain effective. The marriage of systems brings the best of both worlds: ensuring sufficient home heating during the coldest weather and conserving energy when temperatures are moderate.
Contact Entek HVAC today to discuss all of the solutions for your high-efficiency furnace and save on your future heating bills.