When is it time to buy a new furnace
Furnaces are expensive, and we often put off repairs or purchases until there’s a crisis. Fall is a good time to do both.
Your furnace-type heating choices are typically electric resistance systems/electric furnaces, gas or oil furnaces or boilers using water. Electric is clean, convenient and 100 percent efficient, meaning all energy delivered to the home is converted to heat.
Gas-fired furnaces are the most common and must have a minimum AFUE — annual fuel utilization efficiency — of 81 percent for gas, except in 30 northern states, including Missouri and Iowa, where standards are 90 percent. Oil furnaces are less common but popular with “off the grid” households. AFUE is 78 percent for oil. Boilers heat water that is transferred to radiators, baseboard heaters or radiant floor systems throughout the home. They may be powered by gas, oil or electricity.
You’ll find good advice on furnaces art www. consumersearch.com/furnaces, which independently reviews a wide variety of products. The site offers tips on what services a professional contractor/installer — and you’ll need one — should provide, as well as individual product reviews.
Repairing your existing furnace makes sense if you plan to use it more than five years. Of course, a new furnace will be much more efficient than your old one. If your furnace or boiler is 10 to 20 years old, and you’re experiencing higher-than-normal utility bills, it’s time to shop. Here are some clues from the U.S. Department of Energy, ENERGY STAR, the American Council of Energy-Efficient Economy and www.consumersearch.com that it’s likely time to get a new furnace:
- Old coal burner previously switched over to oil or gas with pilot lights instead of electronic ignition
- Old gas furnace without electronic ignition; if it has a pilot light, it was probably installed before 1992 and has an efficiency of about 65 percent compared to the 78 percent required today
- A gas furnace without vent dampers or an induced draft fan, which limit the flow of heated air up the chimney when the system is off
- Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old — older furnaces and boilers may have efficiencies only in the 56 to 70 percent range, compared to modern systems that can achieve 97 percent efficiency
- Your heat exchanger or control module gives out in a system more than 15 years old
- Your equipment needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are going up
- Some rooms in your house are too hot or too cold
- No one is home for long periods of the day, and you do not have a programmable thermostat
- Your home has humidity problems
- Your home has excessive dust
- Your heating system is noisy