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Furnace Efficiency Ratings Explained
Posted: November 16, 2017 by Andy
When you purchase a new furnace system, efficiency ratings absolutely should influence your decision to a great extent. A system's efficiency rating helps to determine how much it will cost to heat your home. The higher the rating, the greater amount of heat is generated for the amount of energy used.
Also, you should consider the costs of the fuel used. Electric furnaces are very efficient, but the cost of electricity doesn't make them the best heating choice.
How efficiency is measured
Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating (AFUE) tells you how much heat the furnace produces, compared to how much energy is used to generate the heat. If a furnace is rated at 85% AFUE, 15% of the energy used is lost, and 85% actually becomes heat.
This rating doesn't include a figure for potential heat loss through ductwork, though. You might not know that ducts running through attic areas can lose up to 35% of a system's heating efficiency. A unit's rating can't account for this loss because ductwork varies in homes.
Many older units don't have ratings
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires furnace manufacturers to include AFUE ratings on all new units. Unfortunately, older models may not have a rating, or the big yellow EnergyGuide tag may have been removed. Fortunately, you can get a rough estimate of the efficiency rating for your furnace.
You can identify low-efficiency furnaces by the presence of a continuous pilot light. This style of furnace requires the pilot light to be relit if it goes out. These systems are also often gravity-based: They rely on drafts (heat rises) to distribute warmth. These units tend to be between 50% to 70% efficient. An older furnace might have an aftermarket blower installed, but it'll still be identifiable by the octopus-style ductwork.
Mid-range models have a fan that controls the airflow. These models utilize an electronic ignition, so there's no need to relight a pilot light. Efficiency for these systems ranges between 80% and 83%. High-efficiency units use two heat exchangers. Condensing units remove water from the exhaust gas and then send the gas through the second exchanger for greater efficiency. The combustion units are sealed. You can expect 90% to 98.5% efficiency.
Should you replace your furnace?
The older your furnace is, the sooner we recommend that you replace it. It might have been state-of-the-art in 1985, but it's now 32 years old - and its efficiency rating can't come close to matching today's efficient models. Consider other factors as well as its age: Was it maintained well? Have you been having any problems with it, such as uneven heating or unusual noises? Has your heating bill increased significantly? These indicate that it's probably time for a new unit.
You'll also want to weigh the short-term versus the long-term. While you can purchase a less-efficient model, you won't see maximum energy savings. High-efficiency systems are more expensive in your initial purchase, but you'll save a significant amount in fuel costs over the unit's lifespan. Our expert HVAC professionals can help you choose the best system for your needs!
How to Avoid Winter Furnace Hazards
Posted: November 9, 2017 by Andy
The temperatures are dropping fast, and winter will be here in just a few short weeks. When it arrives, most homeowners crank up the heat to stay comfortable inside their homes. However, if your furnace isn't maintained properly, you could be putting your loved ones at risk. It's important to be smart about proper furnace maintenance, as well as understanding the potential hazards, so you'll operate your furnace the safest way possible!
Beware of broken or faulty furnace parts
Furnace hazards often are a result of faulty or malfunctioning parts. These could be manufacturer defects in the furnace or older furnaces that sometimes have parts that wear out or break over time, which can pose a safety risk. Also, if you don't follow directions on how to operate your furnace properly, you could potentially cause an accident to happen.
Have your furnace professionally inspected regularly
You should always make a point to inspect your furnace to make sure there isn't something obvious wrong with it, but it's even more important to have a certified HVAC specialist come out regularly and look at the unit, especially before the start of winter. That way, you're certain that any potential issues are identified and corrected before they become potentially dangerous.
Always address issues in a timely manner
If something breaks in your furnace - even a small part - have it repaired right away. The longer you leave repairs sit undone, the greater chance that a potentially hazardous issue will arise. Also, don't attempt to fix anything by yourself. Rely on trained professionals to take care of any furnace repairs to avoid personal injury or damage to your furnace or home.
Safe heating is important during the winter, and understanding how your furnace works and taking the time to ensure that it's working at its maximum efficiency is key. Contact us today for a furnace tune-up or repair, so you're ready to tackle the cold winter air with warmth inside your home!
Furnace Facts That Will Surprise You
Posted: November 2, 2017 by Andy
As outside temperatures fall, most of us are ready to spend more time inside where it's warm and cozy. Thanks to the furnace, we're able to do just that. Here are some furnace facts you might not be aware of, including where the name "furnace" comes from!
A furnace is the most common way to heat a home
Most homes in the USA are heated by furnaces. A furnace warms the house by sending air through a system of ducts found in the floors, walls, and ceilings. Furnace energy sources include electricity, natural gas, and oil, or sometimes a combination. Natural gas systems are the most common and most economical - saving as much as 30% versus electric systems.
Furnaces have been around a long time
The Romans, around 1200 BC, were the first known civilization to use a warm-air heating system. Called a "hypocaust," it pumped heated air through walls and floors. Later, during the 13th century, Cistercian monks used furnace-heated rivers to warm their monasteries. The very first steam-powered heating system was installed in England so that grapes could be grown during cooler temperatures.
Furnaces keep your pipes from freezing
When temperatures outside drop below freezing, the water lines in a home without a heating system will freeze in about three days if they're sealed (that is, if they're turned off and unused).
Humidity can affect how you feel, even at the same temperature
A low humidity level will cause your home to feel colder than its actual temperature, while a home kept at a high humidity level will cause your home to feel warmer than its actual temperature.
Furnaces consist of three main components
Although they also have parts such as fittings, filters, and ductwork, all furnaces contain these three components:
- • A heating element (in electric furnaces) or a burner (in gas furnaces) creates the heat.
- • A heat exchanger separates combustion gas from breathable air.
- • A blower sends breathable air through the duct system into the home's livable spaces.
Furnaces have long lives
Many factors determine how long a furnace will last, but overall, they tend to enjoy lengthy lifespans. Conventional and mid-efficiency furnaces usually last from 18 to 25 years, while high-efficiency furnaces don't last quite as long, usually about 15-20 years.
"Furnace" has a different meaning in different regions
In England, the term "furnace" only refers to industrial furnaces used for smelting lead, iron ore, or copper. In America, we call this type of industrial furnace a "blast furnace." Instead, the British call their heating systems "central heating."
The word "furnace" has Greek origins
"Furnace" comes from the Greek word "fornax," which means oven.
Furnaces really do require maintenance
Did you know that a 6-room house collects an average of 40 pounds of dust a year? It's true! It's also one of the reasons why regular maintenance of your HVAC system is so important!
Save Energy and Money with your Thermostat this Winter
Posted: October 26, 2017 by Andy
As the days get shorter, the leaves start falling, and there's a chill in the air, you're probably realizing what we all do this time of the year: we're about to see colder temperatures. For those who are environmentally friendly or are just looking to save some money, our thermostat tips will help you conserve energy when winter arrives.
Adjust your thermostat to save energy during cold weather
The recommended thermostat temperature setting from Energy.gov is 68°. If this feels colder than you like it, try these tips to increase your comfort.
- Lower the setting by 1° each week as fall temperatures drop. You'll be less likely to notice the change when you ease into it. Do this each week until you reach a comfortable setting.
- Set your thermostat 1° lower than you're used to. You can save some money with just a small temperature change. You might not notice the difference, and even a single degree can lower your heating bill.
- Make use of different levels in your home. Heat rises, so if you have multiple levels in your home, you might modify your routine so that you're spending more time in the upper levels. You'll be able to turn your thermostat down slightly and save energy while maintaining the comfort level you're used to.
- Sleep a little colder. Try setting your thermostat temperature a bit lower while you're asleep. Aim for 3-5° lower, depending on your comfort level. An extra blanket and maybe a little more clothing and you can sleep just as soundly and save on energy costs, too.
- Set temperatures differently when at home and away. This tip will save you money while you make money. Turn down your thermostat while you're working to conserve energy. The Department of Energy says, "You can save as much as 10% per year on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat down 7°-10° for 8 hours a day from its normal setting." Another ideal time for lower temperatures is when you're on vacation. Avoid turning the heat off, though, because this can cause other issues like frozen pipes.
A few minor changes here and there can quickly add up to significant energy savings.
Programmable thermostat tips for cold-weather energy savings
Adding a programmable thermostat is an easy way to rake in the savings. Setting a schedule lets you benefit from the energy savings without needing to make daily adjustments to your thermostat settings. Here are some great tips for setting energy-saving temps this winter.
- Set your thermostat to fit your schedule. It's inefficient to use the same thermostat settings for each day of the week. Most people leave their homes during the week and spend extra time indoors on the weekend. Adjust your programmable thermostat's program to reflect these daily differences so that you aren't wasting energy - and money - when you aren't home.
- Set your thermostat to change temperatures 30 minutes before you need it. If you can sleep comfortably with your thermostat set a little cooler (the recommended sleep temperature is 60-67°), lower your thermostat 30 minutes before your usual bedtime. The same holds true for the 30-minute period before you wake up, leave for work, and come home in the evening. These small adjustments can create significant energy savings.
Additional winter season home tips
In addition to setting your thermostat appropriately, a few extra measures can help your home heat more efficiently, save energy, and help you pocket a few extra bucks.
- Change your furnace filter regularly. This ensures optimum performance of your furnace and allows for better airflow and increased efficiency which you will see in energy savings.
- Upgrade your insulation. Modern insulation uses eco-friendly materials not common in older insulation and is more efficient. The higher its R-value, the better the insulation will hold in the heat.
- Bring on the layers. Add blankets and extra clothing while at home. Experiment with lower temperatures to find your comfort zone.
- Opt for a high-efficiency furnace. If your system is failing or is of advanced age, a wise choice is to go with a high-efficiency model when you upgrade. Modern units consume less energy and will result in utility savings on your monthly bill.
The smart choice is to upgrade to a programmable thermostat as soon as possible. We feature quality units from Aprilaire that are sure to start saving you money right after installation. Mention this article when you call to schedule service and save $25!
Protect Your A/C Unit During the Winter
Posted: October 19, 2017 by Andy
With the warmth of summer coming to an end, it's time to prepare for the cold winter months ahead. While often overlooked, preparation begins with winterizing your outdoor air conditioning unit. This only takes a little bit of time and could save you hundreds to thousands of dollars down the road.
Here's a simple checklist of five easy-to-do things as the weather begins to cool off:
1. Turn off power to the unit.
Central A/C units usually have exterior circuits that control the power line that runs to the unit itself. To turn off the outside power, open the box that is fastened to the side of your house near the unit and look for a red circuit lever. Next, pull the circuit out, turn it upside-down and put it back into the slot. Close the lid of the box.
Turning off the exterior power to your A/C unit will prevent damage to it or electrocution when working with it. This also prevents it from being accidentally turned on during the winter. When turned on, the unit will use water to create cool air. If this water is frozen, it can damage the condenser within your A/C unit.
2. Clean the outside of the unit.
Leaving anything near your unit could damage it during the winter. Trim all plant life that is hanging over the unit or growing too close to it and sweep away any grass or leaves that could blow onto or into it. Using a hose with high pressure is a good way to clean the fan blades and condensing coils and get rid of bugs and dirt.
Also, be sure to clear out all debris that is around the unit, so that winter winds don't blow debris underneath or into the unit. Snow and ice can trap the debris, which could cause damage once summer comes and you start the unit again.
3. Check the unit for damage.
Once you've turned the exterior power off and cleaned your A/C unit, it's a great idea to look closely at the outside of your unit for any cracks, rust or other damage. Any crevices within your unit should be sealed tight as well. If you do find any cracks or broken seals, don't hesitate to call one of our experts so we can address the issue before winter comes!
4. Cover the unit.
While there is some debate over covering your unit, it is best to provide some form of protection during the winter to prolong its life and guard against the harsh winter elements. One way is to purchase a cover, which will cost anywhere between $15 to $30 depending on the quality of the cover and the size of your unit.
One concern with using a cover is the increased chance of moisture getting trapped underneath it, which will cause mold to grow. To avoid this problem, you should leave at least 12 inches of exposed coil, so that air can continue to circulate during the winter.
Another way to cover your unit is to put a simple piece of plywood on top of it. This ensures that your unit can breathe and prevents the risk of potential corrosion or mold from trapped moisture. The wood is also effective at protecting it from falling ice and helps keep leaves and debris away.
5. Check the unit during the winter.
As ice and snow accumulate on your unit throughout the winter, clear it off periodically. Doing this regularly will help keep excess weight from pressing down on your unit, helping to avoid straining its steel enclosure and preventing possible damage in the future.
While you may not have included your A/C unit on your initial fall "to-do" list, a little pre-winter preparation will save you time and money when summer is once again upon us.
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