When do you need to replace your furnace?
Generally speaking, there is no need to replace your furnace as long as it is in good working order. When you approach the 15-year mark it is a good time to start looking into technical advancements and options. While the life expectancy of a furnace is 15-20 years, the older the furnace gets the more problems and potentially pricey repairs will arise, even if you have been diligent with maintaining your furnace. In addition, a newer furnace model may provide significant energy cost savings.
Typically, you will need to consider replacing your furnace if
- Your furnace has broken down and expensive repairs are needed.
- You experience issues with your furnace more frequently and repairs are starting to add up.
- You notice that the performance of your furnace is decreasing.
- Your current furnace is a lower-efficiency model (60-70% AFUE), likely installed before 1990,
- You currently have a mid-efficiency furnace (78-82%), no longer available for purchase in BC if the manufacturer date is listed after January 1, 2010.
You don’t want to feel pressured into a decision when your current furnace breaks down and you have to choose between potentially costly repairs or a furnace replacement. Getting some information about the types of furnaces available and what budget to expect gets you ahead of the game.
How do you choose a furnace for your home?
To determine what type and size of furnace you need for your home you will need to look into a number of factors:
- Type of heating fuel available – Furnaces can run on electricity, natural gas, propane, or oil. If natural gas is available in your area then this would be the recommended option.
- Your current heating system – If you already have natural gas heating in your home then you might want to stick with it. Converting from oil or electrical heating to natural gas heating comes with a conversion fee but it will be the most economical solution for you in the long run.
- Heating requirements
One of the most important factors in determining the reliability and proper functioning of your furnace is that it is correctly sized for your house’s heating demands. This is done by doing a heat load calculation for the house. Your house’s heating requirements are determined by the climate you live in, as well as the size, layout and insulation level of your home. Planned or recent home modifications can impact your property’s heating requirements and need to be included in heat load calculations. Possible impacts include:
- Additional basement/crawl space, attic and/or wall insulation.
- Ventilation changes such as a new bathroom or kitchen exhaust fan.
- Installation of high performance windows and doors.
- Installation of new heating equipment like gas fireplaces, wood stoves, or room heaters.
- Improved building airtightness improvements.
You will also need to assess the existing furnace, exhaust and ducting system, and the overall house condition and occupancy to evaluate adequate furnace sizing and potential ducting modifications.
- Your budget for a new furnace
When looking for a new furnace you will be able to choose between basic models, high-end models and top-of-the-line models. Each brand of furnace offers a similar array of key features which impact the price of the unit. Opinions on which brand of furnace is the best vary and most installers will have a preferred option. An average high-efficiency furnace costs between $2,500-$3,500, including installation. High end models can run $5,000 and up, and the removal of an old furnace can cost as much as $1,000 depending on the size and difficulty. When researching options for a furnace replacement you should review ENERGY STAR standards and requirements for natural gas furnaces that qualify for rebates.
- Furnace Efficiency
Natural gas heating systems are rated by their Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), which describes how efficient a heating system is over the entire heating season. A higher efficiency furnace will allow a greater amount of the BTU input (heat in) to go into the air or water to heat the house (heat out). High efficiency (condensing) furnaces are now mandated for new construction and for furnace replacement in existing homes. They are 90-98% efficient, which means that you get up to 98% worth of usable heat per dollar spent.
- Warranty Coverage
Look for models that come with at least a 10-year warranty on parts and at least a 15 or 20-year warranty on key components of the furnace such as the heat exchanger.
- Rebate options
Furnaces with ENERGY STAR certification will meet a certain efficiency standard, and most crucially, may qualify for government rebates. ENERGY STAR certified gas furnaces in Canada are rated between 95-99% AFUE. At this point standard features of high-efficiency furnaces that qualify for ENERGY STAR rebates in BC must include:
- An AFUE rating of 95% and above.
- A multi-stage or multi-speed furnace that can produce heat at two or more different rates.
- A thermostat that matches the stage(s) of the new furnace including matched thermostat wiring.
- A double piped venting system with combustion air taken from the outside.
- A condensate pipe connected to a drain or pump is required to drain acidic condensate directly into the plumbing system.
- A filter cabinet with an easy serviceable, tight fitting cabinet door for easy filter replacement.
Make sure to inform yourself about approved furnace models and the process to claim your rebate before making a purchasing decision.
Choosing a contractor
Just as important as the furnace itself is the quality of its installation. All of the high efficiency advantage of a modern furnace can be quickly ruined by a bad installation. Remember that the cheapest option is not necessarily the best one. Choose a contractor that is experienced and reliable, bonded and insured, offers you a warranty on workmanship and provides references and follow-up service. When it’s time to replace your furnace you can count on PEACE OF MIND PLUMBING for an honest opinion, an upfront fixed-price quote, and quality furnace installation services.
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