Furnace Calgary: Age, Efficiency, and Replacement

When facing the decision to repair or replace your furnace, an essential factor to consider is the age of your furnace. This is similar to how car technology evolves over time. For example, if your furnace is more than 12 years old, home owner might want to think about getting a new one. Here are some common questions we encounter:

Should I replace a furnace which is 20 or 25 years old?

Yes, in that timeframe, a furnace will have lost much of its operating efficiency to heat a home. Today’s furnaces have improved drastically, with efficiencies rising from 80% to 97%. This means modern furnaces use less gas and convert more of it into heat, making them more efficient and cost-effective.

Should I replace my inducer motor or the whole furnace? 

This is another question we often hear. Here, the age of your furnace unit is a key consideration. If your furnace is older than 15 years, replacing the entire unit might be more financially viable than just replacing a part like the inducer motor. With older furnaces, you’re likely to face more repairs down the line, so investing in a new, more efficient model could save you money in the long run and avoid a breakdown during those cold winters in Calgary.

Frequency of Furnace Repair 

When considering the frequency of repairs, it’s noteworthy that premium, high-efficiency furnace brands like Carrier or Trane often don’t require repairs for the unit’ first 15 years, even if they receive little to no annual maintenance or tune-ups. In contrast, older mid-efficiency furnaces, especially those past the unit’s 15-year mark, tend to need minor or significant repairs every few years. Additionally, these older units typically consume more gas and electricity, particularly for the blower fan to keep the home warm.

A key point to consider is your furnace repair history. If you’ve had to call a furnace company once or twice in the last five years and your furnace is a mid-efficiency model over 15 years old, investing in a new furnace system might be a wise decision. Newer furnace systems usually come with a 10 to 14-year product warranty and a 40-year or lifetime warranty on the heat exchanger. This can provide peace of mind and potentially save on future repair costs. Therefore, frequent repairs on an older furnace can be a clear sign that it’s time you need a new furnace.

Furnace Technology

Technology in furnaces has indeed evolved significantly, mirroring advancements seen in the automotive industry. Older furnaces operated on a basic on/off mechanism, similar to the simplistic features of older cars. They typically had a few safety features, a gas control, and a burner for heat transfer, with air simply passing through. However, modern furnaces boast advanced technologies such as cloud monitoring services, remote diagnostics, cleaner fuel burners, reduced fuel consumption, and incremental fuel burning options instead of the simple on/off system.

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Can a furnace make you sick? 

Yes, especially older models from the ’80s. These furnaces often have inefficient filters that fail to catch dust particles effectively, or they might lack proper air passage through the filter rack, allowing harmful pollutants to circulate. Additionally, some older furnaces can produce excessive or insufficient heat, which can make indoor air feel stuffy and lead to mild headaches. In contrast, modern furnaces are programmable and can adjust heating according to the needs of the space, improving air quality and comfort.

Why does my furnace seem to run a lot? 

Multiple factors can contribute to this issue. Heat loss in a house through poorly sealed doors, windows, or deteriorating insulation can cause the furnace to work harder to maintain a temperature for greater home comfort. Additionally, poor air circulation to the furnace, possibly due to inadequate return airflow, can also lead to the furnace running more frequently than necessary to heat the house adequately in winter.

Why my furnace is not heating properly? 

Common reasons for inadequate heating include clogged furnace filters, low-efficiency furnaces, a failing draft inducer motor, or issues with the thermostat. These components are crucial for the efficient operation of a furnace, and any malfunction can lead to suboptimal heating performance.

Understanding these aspects of furnace technology and operation can help homeowners make informed decisions about maintenance, installation services, repairs, or replacements. As furnace technology continues to advance, these considerations become increasingly important for ensuring comfort, warmth, efficiency, and health in the home.

Increasing Energy Bills

As furnace technology advances, one of the key concerns for homeowners in Calgary is the impact on home comfort and energy bills. The efficiency of a furnace plays a crucial role in home comfort, determining how much energy is consumed and, consequently, the cost of heating a home.

Why is my furnace expensive to operate?

 Older furnaces, especially those that are beyond their prime efficiency years, tend to consume more energy. Initially, these furnaces might start with an efficiency of around 70%-80%, but this can degrade over time, sometimes dropping to as low as 50%. This means that for every unit of energy these furnaces consume, only half is effectively used for heating, with the rest being wasted. In contrast, modern high-efficiency furnaces can achieve efficiencies of up to 97%, significantly reducing the amount of energy wasted.

Another factor contributing to higher energy bills with older furnaces is the lack of modulation in the burning process. Older models typically operate in an all-or-nothing mode – they’re either on at full capacity or off. This approach is less efficient compared to modern furnaces, which can adjust their burning rate incrementally. These newer models start with a low-level burn (as little as 1%-3%) and only increase as necessary to reach and maintain the desired temperature. This modulation means they don’t expend unnecessary energy by always running at full capacity, leading to reduced fuel consumption and, therefore, lower energy bills.

Additionally, other factors could contribute to increasing energy bills. These include poor home insulation, allowing heat to escape; leaks or drafts around windows and doors; an inefficient or clogged air filtration system; and even the size and layout of the home affecting the distribution of heat.

Excess Carbon Monoxide

One of the primary reasons for excessive CO emissions from a furnace is a degrading heat exchanger. Over time, it can develop small holes or rust, leading to leaks. A malfunctioning heat exchanger is often the result of normal wear and tear, but it can pose significant risks by allowing carbon monoxide to escape into the home.

Poor ventilation in the mechanical room where the furnace is installed is another factor that can contribute to CO build-up. If the furnace doesn’t have enough air for proper combustion, or if the ventilation system doesn’t adequately remove combustion gases, carbon monoxide levels can rise.

Furnaces that are poorly maintained are also at a higher risk of producing CO. Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the furnace operates safely and efficiently. This includes checking and adjusting the air-fuel ratio to ensure optimal combustion. If this ratio is off due to inadequate ventilation or other issues, it can lead to incomplete combustion and the production of carbon monoxide.

In older furnaces, performance degradation over time can also lead to CO issues. As furnaces age, they might require recalibration of the air and fuel supply to ensure efficient combustion. However, due to the age of the furnace or the cost and complexity of retrofitting old ventilation systems, such recalibrations are often not pursued, increasing the risk of CO emission.

Given these risks, it’s important for homeowners to be aware of the potential for CO emissions from their furnaces and to take appropriate steps to ensure their safety. This includes regular furnace maintenance, installing carbon monoxide detectors in the home, and considering the replacement of older, less efficient furnaces with newer models that have better safety features and are less likely to emit carbon monoxide.

Cost of Current Furnace Repair Services

If your furnace is a low or mid-efficiency model and you’ve received a repair quote exceeding $1,000, replacement might be a more economical choice in the long run. This consideration becomes especially pertinent if your furnace is also over 15 years old. The rationale here is that older, less efficient furnaces not only cost more to repair but also lead to higher utility bills due to their inefficiency.

When should you replace a furnace?

A useful guideline is to compare the repair cost with the price of a new furnace. If the repair cost is about 25% or more of the price of a new furnace installation (typically ranging between $5,800 and $7,300) and furnace is 12+ years, then investing in a new system could be more sensible. However, the decision also depends on your budget. Not everyone is ready to invest a significant amount at once in new equipment.

For those concerned about the upfront cost of a new furnace, no-interest and no-payment financing options can be a practical solution. These options allow for the immediate replacement of the furnace with the flexibility of paying over time, often with the ability to pay off the total in a few years. This approach can provide customers the benefits of a new, more efficient furnace without the immediate financial burden.

Next Steps

When navigating the process of replacing a furnace, there are several key factors and questions to consider:

What to Know When Replacing a Furnace?

Furnace Brand

 The brand of the furnace is crucial as it impacts the system’s warranty and reliability. Different brands offer varying levels of quality, efficiency, and after-sales support. It’s important to research and understand the differences between brands like Carrier, Trane, Lennox vs Goodman, and others.

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Your budget will significantly influence the type of furnace you can afford. Consider both the upfront cost and the long-term operating costs. High-efficiency models may cost more initially but can save money in the long run through lower utility bills.

Furnace Installation Company 

Choosing the best furnace company with a skilled and professional team of technicians for installation is just as important as selecting the right furnace, itself. Look for a reputable HVAC company specializing in furnace and air conditioner installation with good track records of quality service, skilled technicians, customer service reviews, and after-sales service.

Replace or Repair FAQs

When Should You Repair Your Furnace?

Consider repairing your furnace if it’s relatively new or has minor issues that are cost-effective to fix. If your furnace is under warranty, certain repairs might be covered by a labour warranty. Also, if the repair costs are significantly lower than a replacement furnace would costs and the furnace is still efficient, repair might be the better option. Lastly, when a heating and cooling technician or licensed professional, such as Comfort Union, indicates that the furnace can be repaired both affordably and promptly.

Should You Replace a Furnace Yourself?

Replacing a furnace or any kind of HVAC system such as an air conditioning system is not typically a DIY job. It requires technical knowledge, experience, and understanding of local codes and regulations. It requires a team of trained installers and skilled technicians. Incorrect, furnace installations or air conditoners installation can lead to inefficiency, safety hazards, and voiding of warranty. It’s generally recommended to hire a professional for furnace installation or replacement.

How Often Should a Furnace Be Replaced?

The general lifespan of a heating system like a furnace is around 15-20 years, depending on the model, usage, tune ups and maintenance. However, you might consider replacing a furnace earlier if it’s inefficient, requires frequent costly repairs, or if a newer system offers significantly better efficiency and features.

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Various types of heating and air conditioning equipment: furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners, and ductless mini-split systems.
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