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STAYING TOASTY ALL WINTER LONG: CHOOSING THE RIGHT FURNACE

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  by Jennifer Jones

caulking home window

Nothing is as enjoyable as taking a long winter’s nap in a cozy and draft-free home. But, why does it always seem there is a chilly draft even though the heating bills each winter seem to be sky high? Chances are, the furnace in your home is not as efficient as it could be. There could also be some insulation issues around doors and windows that should be addressed. So, whether you are building a new home or have an existing home that needs a replacement furnace or upgrade, here are some things to consider when choosing a furnace for your home.

If you house is relatively old and you need to make some modifications or upgrades to your furnace as recommended by a heating professional, it would be a wiser choice to consider installing a new energy efficient furnace that will save money on heating and air conditioning, conserve fuel and keep your home consistently warm in the winter. The most important things to consider when determining a furnace for your home is the fuel type it will use, the efficiency of the furnace, and the size of the unit.

 

Fuel Type

Although typically personal preference, fuel type may also be dictated by the location of your home. For those who live in a rural area, natural gas may not be an option. Gas, oil and electric heat pumps are comparable options for forced air heating. If you live in a colder region, a gas or oil furnace or boiler is usually the most likely choice. In warmer regions, a gas furnace or heat pump may be a more reasonable option. You may also consider an electric system if the cost of electricity in your area is low. So, take into consideration several things when selecting the type of fuel you will use for your new furnace.

home furnace

Efficiency

Efficiency relates to the total amount of energy used to heat your home. The higher the efficiency, the better the furnace functions. Most gas units use a power burner or an induced draft system to regulate the flow of air. Oil units have flame retention burners and improved heat exchangers that result in a smaller, yet hotter flame. Electric furnaces however, are considered to be 100% efficient because the electricity is converted entirely to heat.

Pilot lights can also be wasteful because of the constantly burning pilot. Look for units that have an electrical ignition if possible

because that feature alone can provide 6% greater efficiency. And, if an induced draft blower is combined with an electrical ignition feature it can improve efficiency by as much as 20%.

 

Selecting a Size

In order to properly heat your home, you must calculate the home’s heating requirements (btu/hr). Although a bit lengthy, the calculation is fairly easy and involves determining the area and the insulation level for each part of the home. You will also have to factor in air filtration. Most homeowners will consult with a furnace dealer to acquire this information for their home. An HVAC contractor can perform a load calculation before you accept the furnace they recommend. However, there are computer programs and web sites that allow a homeowner to calculate this information. If you are replacing an older furnace, do not just assume the previous furnace was the correct size. It is always wise to have the contractor recalculate the load just to be sure the furnace was the properly chosen the first time. Just like a car, the efficiency of the furnace depends on how it is operated. But an oversized furnace will tend to waste energy by cycling on and off too frequently making it send too much heat up the flue. A furnace that is too small in size will not provide enough heat making your home uncomfortably chilly in colder months. Selecting the proper size furnace from the start not only allows the unit to operate more efficiently, but it keeps you from paying for a unit larger than the size you need.

home attic

Now you have chosen the perfect size furnace for your home, it is also wise to check your home’s duct work. There is no point in having a great furnace if the warm air it produces cools too much before it reaches the living spaces. Avoid putting ducts in crawl spaces and attics. They can cause the air to cool down too much in transit resulting in cool interior spaces in your home. Another great option to consider is installing a new thermostat.  A programmable thermostat can save you plenty of money by allowing you to program the temperature of your home to a lower temperature when not at home and then increasing the temperature prior to your arrival. Even if you do not have a programmable thermostat, adjusting the temperature for nighttime and daytime is a great habit.

 

Furnace Features

Some furnaces are definitely better than others. So, look for some or all of the following features when shopping for a new furnace. Features to look for include heat exchangers that resist corrosion, direct drive blower units, induced draft blowers, pressure switches, and an insulated blower compartment that helps minimize noise when the furnace is operating. The heat exchanger is the most expensive and important part of the gas furnace and it is usually is covered by a separate parts warrantee. The minimum warrantee for a unit is usually five years, but they can be a lengthy as twenty years.

changing air filter in furnace

After a new furnace has been selected, be sure to hire an experience professional for installation. And, be sure to continue frequent tune-ups into your home’s maintenance both spring and fall. Taking good care of your new furnace from the start will ensure even higher energy efficiency, cozy winter evenings and comfortable summers for a longer period of time. 

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