The forced air furnace is the most common appliance used to heat American homes. There are also oil and propane furnaces but gas is the most widely used. Furnaces work by burning fuel which is forced through a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is designed with curved metal tubing which radiates heat as hot gases pass around the heat exchanger. These toxic gases are vented outdoors and sealed to prevent accidental poisoning.
In a forced air furnace, warm air is circulated through vents in your home. As the air passes over the heat exchanger it warms up and circulates through the house. The heat exchanger is sealed to keep the warm air separate from the toxic gases which are a by product of combustion.
Efficiency is measured by the AFUE rating, or annual fuel efficiency rating. This is the percentage of energy returned to your home as warm air.
Standard Furnaces have an AFUE rating of 80-85% Your typical standard furnace has one heat exchanger. This average rating of means that 15% – 20% of your energy is lost.
High-Efficiency Furnaces use a secondary heat exchanger to extract even more heat and can have ratings as high as 96% AFUE, which means an energy loss of only 4%. High-efficiency furnaces are now the preferred choice for furnace replacement and new construction.
Furnace prices these days are higher than before, but the energy savings makes up for it if the unit is fitted properly to the home and usage.
Look at Your Own Furnace
Older School Furnaces do not have blower fans and have very low efficiencies, as little as 30%. If your home has one of these ancient relics you might want to think about upgrading. The savings will be well worth the investment.
How A Furnace Can Turn Deadly
In furnace related deaths it is usually due to a cracked heat exchanger. Cracks occur over time as the burners turn on and off to regulate heat. Expansion and contraction fatigues the metal and causes cracks. A cracked heat exchanger is a serious issue, because even a small crack can release carbon monoxide gas, which is a silent odorless killer. For all of us, home safety is a major concern and should be taken seriously.
If you don’t know how to maintain your own furnace or air conditioning unit hire a professional to inspect, lubricate parts, check for damage, and tune it up. Another important test is for carbon monoxide leaks and safety of operation. Furnace tune-ups usually cost $50-100, but they can reduce your heating costs and guard against exposure to carbon monoxide.
Change or clean your filters on a regular basis. A dirty filter slows airflow and reduces efficiency which can result in higher heating costs, and could even damage the motor.
There are three types of filters:
1. Fiberglass filters are the cheapest, but the least efficient. If you have allergies consider spending a little more money on your furnace filters. They only block the largest particles allowing pollen and other particles like mold to pass through.
2. Washable electrostatic filters attract dirt and other matter with an electric charge. They only filter out about 15% – 20% and can be a chore to clean.
3. The pleated filter design is the best with more surface area and denser material. They last three times longer than cheap furnace filters and trap much more air borne allergens and dust.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
A carbon monoxide alarm near your furnace can save your life. Two or more in your home is better, but make sure to have at least one installed in your home. Carbon monoxide gas is odorless and colorless, so the only way to avoid disaster is with an alarm. Replace existing alarms every five years.
A programmable thermostat will save money in the long run. Take a few minutes to set it up each season, so you can let it run. This will save energy by not heating your home when you’re at work for instance.
Check your heating vents for obstructions. With a clean vent system you will have better heat flow, which will save energy. If you have never done this you might consider bringing in a professional.
Make sure you hire a crew with proper equipment. It’s essential they use compressed forced air and industrial vacuums. Too many small operators scam home owners by pretending to clean your vents with a personal vacuum cleaner.
Outdoor Exhaust Vents
Every winter do an inspection of your intake and exhaust vents. If your vents become blocked, carbon monoxide can back up into the house, and the furnace could even shut down.
For a professional opinion on your heating system, call Efficient Furnace. They will address your concerns and let you know what’s needed for peak performance.
Forced Air Furnace Maintenance – Radiant Heat, and Boilers
When your furnace gives up and the house is cold, repairs can get quite expensive. Better to call a professional before that happens