One of the things that should be at the top of your home maintenance to-do list is servicing your home’s heater. In the course of servicing your furnace, you may discover that it is not operating the way it used to. It might not be putting out the level of heat you need, or maybe it is not heating at all. Perhaps last winter’s energy bills drained your wallet and left you wanting to figure out an alternative this year. Here is how to know if it is time to replace your furnace and what look for when purchasing a new one.
How to Know When It Is Time to Replace Your Furnace
Sometimes a furnace simply needs a good cleaning and a little maintenance to get it in full working order. But, sometimes it is going to cost more to fix the problem than to replace the entire unit. In general, there are four signs that it might be time to purchase a new furnace rather than continue to repair your old one:
1. The Furnace Is Old
The average lifespan of a furnace is between 10 and 15 years. If it is more than 15 years old, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a new one rather than repair the old one. A new furnace is also going to be much more energy-efficient than one that is 10 or 15 years old.
2. The Furnace Needs Frequent Repairs
If you are frequently calling in a professional to repair your furnace, it may be time to say goodbye to your old unit. A furnace that regularly needs repairs and maintenance is going to cost you more over time than the purchase price of a new one. If you are concerned about the cost of a new furnace, SMO Energy offers specials and discounts from time to time to help you save. Financing is also available to make the cost of a new furnace more manageable.
3. Your Energy Bills Are Going Up
Are your energy bills on the rise? Although the price of oil can fluctuate and might be higher some seasons than in others due to supply and demand, another reason why your energy bills might be increasing is that your furnace is working harder to keep your home comfortable.
As a furnace begins to age, it may begin cycling off and on more often or unevenly heating rooms — such as overheating the master bedroom but leaving your living room feeling frigid. Older furnaces also have a lower annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratio than newer, more energy-efficient models. The AFUE rating measures how much of the energy used is turned into heat for the home. A furnace with a 90% AFUE ratio converts 90% of fuel energy into heat. The remaining 10% might be lost in the ductwork or up the chimney. Your furnace might display its AFUE rating — newer models are required to. A certified technician can also measure the AFUE for you when they service the equipment. If your unit’s AFUE is under 80 percent, it is probably time to start looking for a replacement.
4. You See Signs of Corrosion
When an older model furnace begins to die, homeowners often report that they find rust on or around their furnace. They may also see cracks or corrosion on or around the unit. Sometimes an old furnace may put out dust, dirt, soot or rust particles into other areas of the house. Many homeowners also report that they start having humidity problems in their house.
Tips for Picking the Right Furnace
If it is time for a new furnace, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all of the choices out there. Protect yourself from option overload by considering your home and your needs — this should narrow the choices. Once you have these in mind, selecting the right unit will not be such a daunting task.
1. Fuel Source
In today’s market, you can purchase furnaces to run off of natural gas, propane, oil or electricity. The simplest thing to do is purchase a furnace that runs off of what you currently have in your home. After all, if you do not currently have gas lines in your home, then a natural gas-powered furnace will not work. However, if you have been considering switching to a more efficient fuel source, converting your home’s system at the same time you purchase a new furnace is the best way to go about it. You do not want to purchase one furnace and then have to buy another in a year or two when you convert your home’s fuel source. These days, natural gas-powered furnaces are generally considered to be the most efficient option, so if you have gas lines already or you are prepared to convert your home to natural gas, doing so can ultimately save you on your energy bills.
2. Type of System
Some homes have a packaged system that runs both heat and air conditioning off of the same system. Other homes have a split system that keeps their heater separate from their air conditioning. Not only do you need to know which system(s) you currently have, but you should decide if you plan to continue that way or if you want to change how your home’s heating and cooling systems operate. Perhaps you have had a split system in the past, but you are ready to combine both heating and air conditioning into one system to free up space in your home. Or, perhaps you have the space to separate them and maintain two separate systems.
3. Type of Unit
Once you have decided on the fuel source you plan to use and the type of system you should run, then you will need to look at the kinds of models available for each. For example, if your furnace will operate with oil, you can choose from upflow, horizontal, downflow or waste oil models. Each relies on oil to operate the system, but the mechanics of how this is done varies between models. These models also vary in size, so you will need to consider the size of the space where the furnace will be located, as well as the existing set-up in your home. A trained and certified technician from SMO Energy can visit your home to perform an energy consultation and help you choose the type of furnace that will best meet your needs.
Everyone has lived in a home where some rooms were consistently warm while others were ice cold. When you have an entire home operating off of one thermostat, this can be a common occurrence. Recent improvements in home heating have resulted in rising interest in zone heating, which is setting up your heating system to operate differently in different areas of your home. Zoning is accomplished by using separate thermostats in different areas of your home, as well as setting up a series of dampers within the heating ducts of your home to cut off heat to certain areas and improve the heat flow to others as needed. If you have this — or if you plan to upgrade to this — it should factor into the furnace you select.
Like most homeowners, you are probably worried about the costs associated with a new furnace. As you are debating which furnace to purchase, it is important to keep an eye on the price, but do not just focus on the price tag. You will also want to factor in the installation costs and the costs of additional accessories for the furnace as well as any costs associated with either converting your home’s fuel source or hooking up a new furnace with an older system.
The cost of a furnace is also going to vary depending on its efficiency rating, size and indoor air quality features. While we never recommend spending more than you can reasonably afford to pay, we also recommend choosing the one that is right for you. Sometimes, spending more upfront means getting a better unit that will serve you and your family well for a long time. One way to make the cost of a new furnace more manageable is to finance the purchase — you can spread payments out over several months or years, rather than paying for everything in a lump sum.
When you purchase a new furnace, you should make sure that it is the correct size for the home that you have. If a furnace is too small for your home, it may not be able to provide adequate heat. An oversized furnace can also be an issue. When a heating professional comes out to give you a quote, they can do a calculation to determine what size unit your home needs. The calculation looks at more than just the square footage of your home; it also takes other factors into account, such as the efficiency of your windows.
7. Quality of Installation
Who you hire to install your new furnace is as important as the equipment you end up purchasing. A furnace needs to be properly installed to operate as efficiently. Always make sure you work with experienced, highly recommended professionals who have a reputation for doing good work. All of SMO Energy’s technicians are trained and NATE-certified, so you can rest assured they will perform the installation properly and will be available to answer any questions you might have.
8. Variable Speed Blowers and Indoor Air Quality
Furnaces have two kinds of blowers — fixed-speed blowers and variable-speed blowers. The variable-speed blowers are more beneficial because they do exactly what their name says — they vary the speed with which the heat is blown into each room of your house. This helps to keep the heat even from room-to-room, and it also generally is quieter than a fixed-speed blower.
Besides the type of blower that a furnace has, it is also important to know how it will impact the quality of the air inside of your home. The blower is used to distribute the warm air a furnace produces into the rooms of your home. It blows that air through a series of ducts inside of your home’s walls. If the furnace does not have an adequate air filtration system, it may blow dust and allergens through the ducts and into the rooms in your house. The air filters on a furnace should be changed twice a year to maintain the air quality in your home. Make sure that your heating and cooling professional checks these filters each time your furnace is serviced — beginning with when it is installed. In between regular maintenance, you can change these filters and breathe easy knowing your air is clean.
9. Service Agreement
A new furnace is an investment, and it is one that should help to keep your home comfortable and cozy for years to come. One way to protect that investment is to purchase a service agreement for your new equipment. Under a service agreement, you get one free inspection and tune-up of your furnace each year. The agreement also provides protection for parts and repairs. If certain parts of the furnace become defective due to regular wear-and-tear on the equipment, SMO Energy’s technicians will repair or replace them as needed.
Along with financing, a service agreement is another way to make your new furnace more affordable.
10. Rebates and Incentives
If you are interested in a high-efficiency furnace, you may qualify for incentives or discounts with your energy supplier. Check with your energy supplier, as well as your installation professional to get an idea of what programs your furnace may qualify for.
Consult With SMO Energy for Your Heating Needs
The right furnace is a must-have for your home’s total comfort. SMO Energy is committed to providing Southern Maryland homes with the equipment they need to stay comfortable. We can help you decide whether it’s time to get a new furnace or if your existing equipment needs some attention. Contact SMO Energy today to schedule an in-home energy consultation and to get started improving the warmth and overall comfort of your home.