Friday, September 25, 2009

Autumn. Changing scenery, cooler temps and gasp, firing up the furnace again

Autumn is upon us which means cooler temps for most of the country. As winter approaches, thermostats are switching from Cool to Warm settings, air conditioning units are being covered up and furnaces are being inspected. Some of us might not be happy with the news from our furnace man. It may be time to replace Old Faithful and while it might be difficult to fork over the funds to replace him, the savings on your energy bill may well be worth it. Even if your furnace gets a clean bill of health, if it has been in your home for 15 years or more, you may want to consider buying a new one.

New energy efficient furnaces can save you hundreds of dollars each year in fuel costs. Plus, because you won’t be needing as much electricity to run a new furnace, you’ll help reduce the air pollution produced by your local power plant, not to mention the overall improvement in the air quality in your home.

So if saving money is your bottom line, an Energy Star furnace is the way to go. If the environment is your main concern, an Energy Star furnace is the way to go. Or if your primary focus is on improving the health of your family, an Energy Star furnace is the way to go. That said, it looks like buying an Energy Star furnace is a win-win-win situation.

Of course, ideally, installing a heat pump, solar hot water system and/or a woodstove are greener solutions, but if you must have a furnace, review your options, including the projected energy savings, before you buy.

Depending on what part of the country you live in, average savings for an average-sized home can range from a few hundred dollars to over twelve hundred dollars when replacing a 60% - 78% efficient gas furnace with an Energy Star furnace. Replacing an oil furnace can net even greater savings.

When shopping for a new energy-efficient gas furnace, look for a condensing model which contains a second heat exchanger that will pull in additional heat from the flue gases. Make sure the new furnace has a sealed combustion chamber to guard against carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from escaping into the air.

You can find a list of Energy Star furnaces and appliances on their website at There is also a savings calculator on the website that can help you figure out your potential cost savings.

Oil furnaces made before 1992 are generally only 50% - 60% efficient. Today’s energy savers tend to be in the 83% - 86% range, with some registering a 95% efficiency.

If you simply can’t afford to replace your furnace this year, keep in mind that dirt and neglect are the primary causes of inefficiency and failure in your heating system. Have an energy auditor come by and test for leaks in your ducts, where 35% of hot air can be lost. Also make sure you clean or replace any filters in your furnace every couple of months when using either your heating or your cooling system. This can help to prevent service issues and will lower your heating costs.

If you replace your furnace, be sure to check for tax incentives. Your energy provider should be able to guide you in the right direction here. Or you can visit to see what incentives are currently available.

To get the best, most efficient use out of your furnace, make maintenance a priority and be sure to have a professional inspect it on a yearly basis.

Keeping it green,


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