by Skander Spies
Here at Energetechs we’ve pulled up our gardens and found our hats and gloves for biking to work. Autumn sends all kinds of signals, and chances are that one of them is coming from your furnace. Thinking about winter, many of our clients start asking questions about insulation or air sealing to keep their homes warm and comfortable. While these are great questions to ask, a furnace replacement is often the most effective first step to reduce utility bills, while increasing comfort and air quality. This post is about 3 reasons why replacing your furnace is one of the most important home investments you can make.
Reason #1: Safety
We’ve all heard that heat rises. Most furnaces built and installed before the mid 1990’s relied on this fact to operate properly. These furnaces use some of the heat from burning natural gas to lift exhaust fumes up the furnace flue and out of the living space. This type of furnace is called “atmospherically combusted” and it means that your furnace is open to your living space. This also means that your furnace sucks warm air out of your house, increasing your heating bill and causing uncomfortable drafts. They also usually require “make up air”- which is a fancy name for a big duct in your house that dumps cold air from the outside directly into the furnace room. When your furnace is open to your living space, you can run the risk of “back drafting” meaning that not all the exhaust leaves the house, putting you and your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and other issues. You can read more about back drafting here, and from the US Department of Energy.
Starting in the late 1990’s “sealed combustion” furnaces started becoming popular and affordable. These units have sealed pipes that keep the exhaust gas away from your living space. This single difference means your gas bill gets about 15% smaller, your house will feel less drafty, and you don’t run the risk of exhaust gas poisoning.
Reason #2: Comfort
As we discussed above, older furnace suck warm air out of buildings. This can cause uncomfortable drafts throughout your home as the furnace sucks in cold air from the outside. There are several other advantages associated with newer furnaces:
- A new furnace can be sized properly. Most older furnaces are too big for the houses they serve, meaning they turn on and off again, making noise and blowing air around. A furnace that has been sized for your home will turn on and off fewer times per day, which reduces noise and increases the lifespan of the furnace. When you talk with a contractor about replacing your furnace, insist that they perform a “load calculation” which will determine how big your furnace needs to be in order to heat your home.
- A new sealed combustion furance will have a quieter fan and (probably) multiple stages of operation- meaning your house won’t sound like a jet engine when the furnace kicks on.
- Older furnaces can be harder to maintain, and in our experience that usually means that they are maintained poorly, if at all. Having your furnace fail in the middle of January is no fun, yet many older furnaces do. If you have an older furnace, make a plan to replace it, so you aren’t grasping at straws when the snow starts to fly.
Reason #3: Air Quality
Your furnace is one of the most important parts of maintaining healthy air quality in your home. When your furnace pulls in air from your living space to heat it, it draws in airborne dirt, pet hair, and other pollutants which can be filtered out. Older furnaces tend to have 1″ filters that offer limited air filtration. We insist on using premium quality MERV13 filters on every project because we insist on healthy air quality for you and your family. It’s easy to upgrade your filter as part of a furnace replacement, and your lungs will thank you when you do.
In general, older furnaces last about 25 years. If your home was built before 1995 and the furnace hasn’t been replaced yet, it probably doesn’t have a sealed combustion furnace. We specialize in retrofitting homes with new high efficiency furnaces as well as other measures that increase comfort and reduce energy bills. Call us to schedule a estimate and learn more about making your home more comfortable and efficient this winter.