The process to replace your existing furnace shouldn’t be a difficult one! The professionals at HAMCO Heating & Cooling Ltd. are here to answer all of your questions when it is time to invest in a new system.
So, how do you know it’s time? For some it isn’t as clear if the furnace is still working, for others it’s an obvious choice as they have no heat! In this article we will answer some of the most pressing questions about furnace replacement.
When replacing your furnace is an easy decision.
A good rule of thumb is that if your furnace has a pilot light, or has a metal vent with a gap just above the furnace (see photo) then go ahead and replace it before winter. These mid-efficiency furnaces are no longer available to purchase, and parts replacement can be very difficult.
Will you save money with a new system?
If your furnace is still working, and its efficiency is 90% or more, it’s useful to know how much lower your heating costs could be.You’ll want to determine if you can save enough money in fuel costs to justify upgrading your furnace.
- Start with your yearly gas bill to figure out how much you’re paying for the natural gas used to heat your hot water for the whole year. Most people use about the same amount of hot water for showering, dishwashing, and washing clothes all year round, so you need to figure out how much natural gas you use monthly to heat water.
- Look up your bill for a warm-weather month when you were home with the furnace off but not frequently using a natural gas barbeque.
- Take that monthly amount and multiply it by 12 to get your yearly cost to heat water.
- Then subtract your water heating costs from what you paid over the year for natural gas.
- Take your resulting number and multiply it by your furnace efficiency. It’s usually listed on the side of your furnace (or boiler). Turn it into a decimal. If your furnace is 83% efficient, it would be .83. That number you have is the absolute minimum cost for a fuel-fired appliance (for example natural gas or propane) if it were 100% efficient.
- You can then reuse the formula with your new furnace options.
- Use the results of Step 6 to calculate your savings by replacing your furnace with each option. Taking time to do this math can help you determine if the savings on your fuel costs are enough to upgrade your furnace.
What if you have uncomfortable rooms?
If you have rooms that are uncomfortably warm or cold, first check to make sure that all the vents in the house are open. Then take some time to “balance” the house. Open vents in rooms that are used and close the ones in rooms that are not used. If you had to adjust more than a couple, give the house a day or two to settle into its new temperature profile.
The vents might also have a little circular adjustment plate inside the duct. Some are accessible from the vent, and some are accessible on the main duct coming out of the furnace in the basement. If your home has them, you can try using them to adjust airflow.
If there are still uncomfortable rooms, the next step would be to tape up wherever there is a takeoff from the main duct such as to take air upstairs.
The duct is probably pretty dirty, so clean it first so the dust doesn’t prevent the tape from sticking. Then use a high-quality aluminized tape to seal around each takeoff.
Another option – though it isn’t the most efficient option – would be to run your furnace fan continuously instead of on auto. But doing so means using electricity and it decreases the time until the motor needs to be replaced.
Some people will have settings on their vent cover diffuser to tell them what setting to choose for summer vs winter. Your basement, for instance, will rarely need any air conditioning in the summer, so all the vents should be closed. However, it will probably need to be open for full heating in the winter.
You might need to change your water heater too!
If you have an exterior chimney and a water heater that is vented into the chimney, you should replace your water heater with a sealed-combustion unit at the same time that you are doing the furnace replacement. Otherwise, the chimney can cool down when there’s no longer the furnace venting through it, and the venting from the water heater could backdraft and let combustion products into the home and potentially lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. If for some reason you can’t replace your water heater at the same time, ensure you have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Everyone needs to have these detectors according to a fairly recent law.
What if you don’t need a new furnace?
If your home gets uncomfortably cold but you don’t need a new furnace and you’ve explored the other options I’ve suggested to improve uncomfortable rooms, you should get a home energy evaluation to help you develop a game plan to make your home energy efficient and comfortable.