HVAC, Plumbing & Electrical FAQs
- When should I replace my furnace?
- What are some tips for maintaining the furnace
- What energy efficiency rating do I look for in a furnace?
- When should I replace my air conditioner?
- What are some tips for maintaining my central air conditioner?
- What energy efficiency do I look for with an air conditioner?
- What is the best way to run my air conditioner?
You have two choices – you can replace your furnace before it breaks down, or wait till after it breaks down. If you replace it before it breaks down, you can take time to shop for the best deal, and install it on your own timetable. If you wait till after its breaks down (probably on the coldest day in the winter) you are usually in an emergency situation and need to replace it immediately. You may not be able to get the best deal and may have to settle for the first furnace you can get. Therefore, you may want to consider replacing your old furnace before it breaks down.
The average 80% standard oil or gas furnace lasts 18 years. Most high efficiency 90%+ furnaces only last 12 years due to their longer run times and design characteristics. It makes sense to have your furnace checked by an HVAC professional every few years. This is especially true for older units. Once you get past the life expectancy of the unit consider planning for a replacement unit.
Here are some symptoms that show when a furnace should be replaced
- Frequent pilot light outages
- Delayed ignition
- Yellow flame or wavering flame
- Excessive soot or corrosion
- Too much or too little heat
- The smell of sulfur or burnt eggs
- Inspect filters once a month and replace as needed during heating season.
- Inspect fan belts for cracks.
- Make sure vents and air return vents are clear of obstruction.
- Check chimney and venting systems once a year for secure fittings, leaks, and no corrosion or damage.
- Keep area around furnace clean.
- Do not block the source of furnace combustion air by enclosing furnace is a small closet or by making the room it is located in too air tight.
Furnaces prior to 1990 were 55% to 65% efficient. The standard furnaces today are 80% efficient. High efficiency furnaces can be up to 97% efficient. A high efficiency furnace will generally cost more to install, but will save about 15% of the heating bill as compared to a standard unit. Have your furnace dealer show you a comparison of the differences in purchase cost and operating cost before making a purchase decision. If your furnace is more than 15 years old, a new furnace will probably be more efficient and save money.
The same conditions hold true for an air conditioner as with the furnace. The main difference is that having no air conditioning is generally not a life-threatening situation as it is with heating. Therefore, you are not in an emergency situation to replace the air conditioner when it fails.
The average central air conditioner lasts 15 years while the average room air conditioner lasts 10 years. Once you pass the life expectancy of an air conditioner you may want to begin gathering information on which bands of equipment and which dealer you want to replace the air conditioner.
When replacing an air conditioner, make sure it is installed in a shady spot. This can save 1%-2% of the energy bill. Avoid placing the air conditioner on the roof or in the attic whenever possible.
- Clean and replace filters as needed during cooling season.
- Clean air conditioner coils.
- Keep debris and leaves away from air conditioner unit.
- Use a hose to clear the aluminum fins from airborne debris.
- Have dealer make sure correct amount of refrigerant is in air conditioner. Do not overcharge refrigerant when filling.
- Find and repair any leaks in system.
- Measure air flow through coil.
- Verify correct electronic control sequence.
- Inspect electrical terminals.
- Oil motor and check belts.
- Check accuracy of thermostat.
Air conditioners have a SEER rating. This is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. In the 1970’s most air conditioners had a 6 SEER rating. Today the standard SEER rating for most air conditioners is 10 SEER. An energy efficient air conditioner will have a 12 SEER or 13 SEER rating.
Have a dealer show you a comparison of the extra initial price for the energy efficient air conditioner vs. the energy savings for that air conditioner. Than you can make an intelligent decision on which air conditioner to purchase.
The most common mistake people make in running their air conditioners is to open their windows at night. Half the job of an air conditioner is to remove the humidity from the air. Relative humidity increases at night because the temperatures are generally cooler. The air conditioner works all day long to reduce the temperature AND remove the humidity. Opening the windows at night lets all the humidity back in the house and causes the air conditioner to have to work harder the next day to remove it. Therefore, you get less comfort and reduced or no savings.
Choose a strategy. One strategy is to leave the windows open all the time and don’t run the air conditioner. The other strategy is to leave the windows closed all the time and run the air conditioner. The only bad strategy is to open and close the windows each day while you are running your air conditioner.