Denver furnace maintenance and safety inspection services

Heating FAQ

QUESTION: How often should a furnace be replaced?

ANSWER:

As a general rule, furnaces have a lifespan of approximately 10 to 25 years. Any system more than a decade old is more than half way through its serviceable life and is a good candidate for replacement. According to the recommendations from the United States Department of Energy, it makes sense to upgrade to a modern, high-efficiency heating system if your current heating system is inappropriately sized, running efficiently, or past its service life.

There are several reasons why a new heating system may be well worth the investment. If your current system has a low Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating, upgrading to a system with a higher AFUE rating will benefit both the environment and your wallet. It is also more difficult to repair and find replacement parts for older furnaces, which could leave you shivering just when you need your furnace the most.

If you decide that it is time to replace your furnace, our experts are available to help you find the right system for your home.

QUESTION: How often should a furnace filter be replaced?

ANSWER:

The furnace filter helps keep the coils and heat exchanges on your HVAC unit clean. When the exchanges and coils become dirty, your system has to work harder, which can shorten its lifespan. The air quality in your home can also decline, which can lead to an increase in asthma and allergy symptoms.

The one inch thick filters made of fiberglass that are found in most furnaces should be replaced approximately every three months. You may need to do this more often if you have pets or children living in the home since they generate more airborne particles. If you have a 4 to 5-inch filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value rating of 8 to 11, you can get by with replacing your filter once a year or semi-annually if you have children or pets in the home. If you live in a new home, are in the process of remodeling, or have family members with allergies or asthma, you should be especially diligent about changing your furnace filter.

QUESTION: What signs indicate a furnace needs repairs or replacement?

ANSWER:

If your furnace is more than 10 years old, you can probably benefit from a new unit. Some other signs indicating that you need to repair or replace your furnace include

• an increase in utility bills,
• uneven heating,
• humidity and comfort problems,
• frequent cycling,
• frequent repairs,
• rust or corrosion,
• unusual or loud noises, or
• a flickering or yellow pilot flame.

Even a well-maintained system can experience occasional problems. If your furnace does not seem to be operating or heating properly, call one of our furnace experts for a diagnosis. If the problem cannot be fixed with a simple repair, we will provide you with a no-hassle estimate on a new furnace.

QUESTION:What Factors Should I Consider When Shopping for a New HVAC System?

ANSWER:

One of the most important considerations is choosing the right HVAC installer. The right HVAC installation company can guide you toward the right system for your home.

When vetting an HVAC installation company, be sure to get a written estimate that includes the size, brand, warranty, efficiency rating, fees, and permits along with any necessary ductwork, ventilation, electrical work, thermostats, and fuel delivery changes. You should also make sure that the installation company is licensed, bonded, and properly insured. It is also a good idea to check out the company’s online reviews and rating with the Better Business Bureau and make sure that they follow Energy Star® installation guidelines.

If energy efficiency is your primary concern, you may want to invest in a hybrid heating system that combines both a heat pump and a furnace for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Energy Star® provides a handy checklist to help you compare bids from various HVAC installation companies.

QUESTION:How much should I expect to spend on a new furnace?

ANSWER:

The size, brand, type, and efficiency rating of a furnace all factor into the price. In most cases, you can expect to pay somewhere between $3,000 and $6,000 for a new furnace. Our installation professionals are available to give you a precise estimate on a new system for your home. Simply call us for a convenient in-home consultation.

All of our estimates are based on straightforward pricing options, so you do not have to worry about unexpected charges or surprise fees when you get your final bill.

QUESTION:What Are Some Helpful Tips for Maintaining My Furnace?

ANSWER:

It is not unusual for a furnace to make strange noises and sounds when turned on for the first time after months of non-use; however, sudden noises or changes in performance may be signs of a problem. Simple self-maintenance and professional tune-ups will help you avoid costly repairs, extend the life of your furnace, and lower your utility bills. The following are a few maintenance tips to help you keep your furnace running at peak efficiency.

  • Keep your thermostat set at the lowest point possible that will keep you and your family comfortable. If possible, lower the setting at night and whenever you will be away from home. Upgrading to a programmable thermostat will ensure that these adjustments are done automatically.
  • Remember to clean or replace your filters regularly. We recommend that you do this at least once a month or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • You should also clean baseboard heaters, registers, and radiators on a regular basis. Be sure to keep these areas free of obstructions so that the warm air can circulate freely throughout your home.
  • Remove any air that may be trapped in your hot water radiator at least once or twice a season. If you are unsure how to do this, we can perform this task for you.
  • Add heat-resistant reflectors between your radiator and external walls.
  • Remember to turn off the exhaust fan in your kitchen or bath within 20 minutes after you are finished bathing or cooking. If you have an old exhaust fan, you may want to consider replacing it with a low-noise, energy-efficient model.
  • During the winter months, be sure to open any drapes or shades on your south-facing windows during the daytime to allow the natural sunlight to warm the rooms. Keep drapes closed at night to block out the chill.

If it has been a while since your furnace has had a tune-up, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

QUESTION:What Are the Components of a Heating System in an “All Electric” Home?

ANSWER:

The typical all-electric heating system is comprised of a furnace and a heat pump that are connected to a thermostat. The furnace is equipped with a fan that moves the air across a series of heating elements similar to those that you would find in a toaster. The heated air is then forced through the duct system to heat the home. The thermostat tells the system to kick on when the temperature falls below the desired setting. Since the heat pump is more efficient than the furnace, it will normally cycle on first. The heat pump extracts the heat that is already in the outdoor air and warms it to the desired temperature over the coils. When the outdoor temperature falls below a certain point, the furnace kicks in to heat your home.

QUESTION:My Furnace or Heat Pump Is Not Working. What Should I Check Before Calling for Repair?

ANSWER:

Start by making sure that the furnace thermostat is set correctly. Make sure you are in “heat” mode and that the fan is set to “manual” or “auto.” The temperature should be set between 68° F and 75° F. If the thermostat is set properly, make sure that the filter is not dirty and obstructing the air flow. You should also double check that the breaker on your main electric service panel is in the “on” position. If you have a gas furnace that has an efficiency rating of 90 percent or higher, make sure that the intake and exhaust pipes are not obstructed by leaves, snow, or other debris. Finally, make sure that the front panel of the furnace is fastened securely so that the fan safety switch is in the “on” position.

If the problem appears to be with the heat pump, verify that the thermostat is set correctly and that it is set to “heat pump” mode instead of “emergency heat.” Be sure to check the that the air flow is not blocked due to a dirty filter and that the outdoor portion of the unit is free of leaves and other debris. Check your main electrical panel to make sure that the breaker is in the “on” position. If these measures do not solve the problem, switch the heat pump to “emergency heat” mode and call for service.

QUESTION:Is it better to repair or replace my furnace?

ANSWER:

The decision to replace or repair your furnace is based on a number of factors, including the age of the unit, safety concerns, cost of repair, how long you plan to live in the home, and whether your air conditioner needs to be replaced as well. If your existing unit is more than 13 years old and the repair is anticipated to cost at least $500, it is probably more cost effective to replace the unit. In addition to offering safer and more reliable heat, a new furnace will be more efficient, will lower your utility bills, and will come with a warranty to cover the cost of future repairs for a number of years.

If you plan to live in your home for the long term, it is better to proceed with the replacement sooner rather than later. Postponing getting a new system can result in more repairs, frequent outages, and replacing the unit at a higher cost at a more inconvenient time.

If you need to replace your air conditioner, installation issues may require you to replace your furnace as well. The coils in today’s high-efficiency air conditioners are taller than many older models and may not fit into the original furnace space. Newer furnace models are made to accommodate the larger air conditioner coils.

QUESTION:How Is Gas and Oil Furnace Efficiency Determined?

ANSWER:

The efficiency of a furnace is described in terms of input and output expressed in British Thermal Units, also known as BTUs, and Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, also known and AFUE.

If you have a furnace with a 90 percent AFUE rating and an input of 100,000 BTUs per hour, you would have an output of 90,000 BTUs per hour that would heat your home. The remaining 10,000 BTU difference between the heat generated and the amount of usable heat produced by the furnace is lost up the chimney through venting. Many of today’s high-efficiency furnaces are equipped with secondary heat exchangers and other features that limit the amount of heat lost through venting. Furnaces are available that have AFUE ratings as high as 97 percent that extract more heat from each unit of fuel. Switching to a furnace with a high AFUE rating can lower your heating costs by as much as 30 percent.

QUESTION:How Do I Choose the Right Gas Furnace?

ANSWER:

The efficiency of a furnace is described in terms of input and output expressed in British Thermal Units, also known as BTUs, and Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, also known and AFUE.

Furnaces come with a wide range of features designed to improve comfort and reduce operating costs. Some of these include variable and multi-speed air handlers, microprocessors for more user control, various efficiency ratings, and single and multi-stage heat outputs. Consumer Reports and furnace manufacturer websites are good sources of information about the benefits of the various features. You can also schedule an in-home consultation with one of our furnace experts to discuss your available options.

QUESTION:Is It Best to Replace My Air Conditioner and Heat Pump at the Same Time?

ANSWER:

If both units are over 13 years old or have a history of breakdowns and repairs, it is best to replace your entire heating and cooling system. Replacing both systems together is more efficient for the installer and will likely be less expensive than replacing one system now and the other down the road. Trying to install a new air conditioner or heat pump with your old furnace can cause problems since the coils in the new air conditioner may not fit your old furnace. If your old air conditioner and heat pump system use R-22 refrigerant that is being phased out, upgrading to a unit that uses R-410A refrigerant may make service and repairs less expensive. Finally, you will get the best performance and the most energy efficiency when you buy both units together.

QUESTION:How Do I Choose the Right Thermostat?

ANSWER:

Programmable thermostats offer the most precise temperature control. Some thermostats allow you to control humidity, air quality, and air flow and can even be adjusted to the time of day or the day of the week. Thermostats are also available that allow you to control the various settings and to diagnose problems remotely from a cell phone or land line. Back-lit and large-print digital models are available for those with vision impairments. Our technicians are available to help you select and install the best thermostat for your HVAC system.

QUESTION:What Is an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency Rating?

ANSWER:

The efficiency of a furnace is measured by the amount of energy or fuel that is used to generate heat for your home. This is known as the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating or AFUE.

Every heating system loses energy during the combustion process; however, some systems convert a greater portion of the energy into heat than others. The AFUE is a calculation that considers the ratio of heat generated versus the amount of energy consumed by the system.

Today’s furnaces have an AFUE rating of at least 90 percent. This means that 90 percent of the energy consumed is converted into heat for your home. The remaining 10 percent is lost during the combustion process and through venting.

If your system is 20 years old or older, it probably started out with an AFUE of around 78 percent or lower. Over time, this efficiency has declined even further. A condensing furnace with an AFUE of 95 percent will result in significant savings on your monthly heating costs, which could offset the price of the new unit very quickly. A variable or two-speed system will provide even more savings.

Any furnace with an AFUE of 80 percent or lower is considered low-efficiency and should be replaced.

QUESTION:Is There a Minimum AFUE Rating for Gas Furnaces?

ANSWER:

In January 2015, the United States Department of Energy mandated that all new weatherized gas furnaces have a minimum AFUE rating of 81 percent. This regulation applies throughout all 50 states. The following are the minimum AFUE ratings for other types of furnaces.

  • Non-weatherized gas furnaces are required to have a minimum AFUE of 80 percent.
  • Gas furnaces in mobile homes must have an AFUE of at least 80 percent.
  • Non-weatherized oil-fired furnaces are required to have a minimum AFUE of 82 percent.

The U.S. Department of Energy Is currently considering increasing the minimum AFUE rating from 81 percent to 92 percent.

If you are considering replacing your current furnace, we suggest looking at units with an AFUE rating of at least 92 percent. Although the initial cost of these units may be higher, the fuel savings over the life of the unit will more than offset the higher price tag.

QUESTION:What Is an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency Rating?

ANSWER:

The efficiency of a furnace is measured by the amount of energy or fuel that is used to generate heat for your home. This is known as the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating or AFUE.

Every heating system loses energy during the combustion process; however, some systems convert a greater portion of the energy into heat than others. The AFUE is a calculation that considers the ratio of heat generated versus the amount of energy consumed by the system.

Today’s furnaces have an AFUE rating of at least 90 percent. This means that 90 percent of the energy consumed is converted into heat for your home. The remaining 10 percent is lost during the combustion process and through venting.

If your system is 20 years old or older, it probably started out with an AFUE of around 78 percent or lower. Over time, this efficiency has declined even further. A condensing furnace with an AFUE of 95 percent will result in significant savings on your monthly heating costs, which could offset the price of the new unit very quickly. A variable or two-speed system will provide even more savings.

Any furnace with an AFUE of 80 percent or lower is considered low-efficiency and should be replaced.

QUESTION:How Can I Determine the AFUE Rating of My Furnace?

ANSWER:

Furnace manufacturers are required to post a unit’s energy efficiency information, including the AFUE, on a yellow sticker on the side of the unit. The EnergyGuide label outlines the estimated annual operating cost of the furnace, its energy efficiency level, as well as how it compares with similar units.

It is important to remember that furnaces, like any other appliances, become less efficient as they age. Routine self-maintenance and an annual checkup by a professional will help extend the life and efficiency of your furnace as well as reduce your repair costs and ensure that your manufacturer’s warranty remains valid.

Contact one of our technicians for a furnace tune-up today to make sure your family stays warm this winter.

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