Older fur­nace doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily re­quire re­place­ment

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QUES­TION: I re­cently had a prob­lem with my fur­nace that turned out to be a worn out sen­sor. While the man from the heat­ing com­pany was here he noted be­cause my fur­nace is 15 years old I should se­ri­ously be think­ing about re­plac­ing it, soon. The fur­nace is a Rheem Cri­te­rion two, mid ef­fi­ciency gas fur­nace, in a typ­i­cal 50’s bun­ga­low. It is ser­viced and cleaned regularly and the fil­ter is changed ev­ery cou­ple of months. The only other is­sue with the fur­nace was a wire which needed re­plac­ing a few years ago. I called Man­i­toba Hy­dro to see if they could do an un­bi­ased in­spec­tion and let me know the con­di­tion of the fur­nace. They said I would have to call a heat­ing or elec­tri­cal place, but they all sell fur­naces. Is the fact that a fur­nace is 15 years old grounds for con­sid­er­ing re­plac­ing it? Also, are there any Win­nipeg com­pa­nies that do fur­nace au­dits and don’t sell fur­naces? Thanks so much. Sin­cerely, Mindy B An­swer: Up­grad­ing a fur­nace to a newer, high ef­fi­ciency unit will de­pend on sev­eral fac­tors, with age be­ing one of those cri­te­ria, but not the only one to rely upon. Other items that must be taken into ac­count are re­cent home up­grades, fur­nace lo­ca­tion and con­di­tion, and eco­nomic con­sid­er­a­tions. We will ex­plore these and oth­ers, while dis­cussing your spe­cific sit­u­a­tion. While not the most crit­i­cal of all the fac­tors to be con­sid­ered while de­cid­ing on whether to up­grade your older fur­nace, age is cer­tainly im­por­tant. Even more crit­i­cal than know­ing the age of the cur­rent heater, is de­ter­min­ing the nor­mal life ex­pectancy. For some older, stan­dard ef­fi­ciency fur­naces with cast iron burn­ers and high qual­ity heat ex­chang­ers, that could be in the 30 year plus range. For some lower qual­ity units, 15 years may be near­ing the end of the road, but most of those fur­naces would be long gone by now. For your mid-ef­fi­ciency unit, 25 years is a rea­son­able time frame to ex­pect the fur­nace to op­er­ate prop­erly and safely, if well main­tained. That is not to say it won’t last 30 years, or de­velop a dam­aged heat ex­changer and need to be junked be­fore the 20 year mark, but plan­ning for an up­grade in that range would be prac­ti­cal. Another fac­tor in de­cid­ing whether to buy a new gas-fired fur­nace is ef­fi­ciency. Many older mod­els, built in the early 1980’s or ear­lier, had ef­fi­ciency rates in the 60 per cent range. That means that 40 per cent of the fuel in­put is wasted, mainly from ex­haust go­ing up the chim­ney with di­lu­tion air from the base­ment. Mid-ef­fi­cient units like yours are of­ten 80 per cent ef­fi­cient, or slightly higher, so are a con­sid­er­able im­prove­ment over the older ones. New fur­naces, which are all high ef­fi­ciency mod­els, have rat­ings of 90 per cent or higher and waste very lit­tle energy by vent­ing mainly wa­ter vapour through PVC pipes to the ex­te­rior. To up­grade from a stan­dard model to a new High-E fur­nace makes sense re­gard­less of con­di­tion, be­cause fuel sav­ings would be con­sid­er­able. That’s not the case with your mid-ef­fi­ciency unit, as the ex­tra 10 per cent or so would not be a suf­fi­cient eco­nomic in­duce­ment to re­place a fur­nace in good con­di­tion. Eval­u­at­ing re­cent home im­prove­ments or up­grades is the next step in de­cid­ing whether to make the switch to a newer gas-fired fur­nace. If you have re­cently taken ad­van­tage of var­i­ous gov­ern­ment in­cen­tives and rec­om­men­da­tions, you may have newer win­dows and in­su­la­tion in your home. Not only would those up­grades have im­proved the energy ef­fi­ciency of your home, and made it more com­fort­able, they would also have tight­ened up the build­ing en­ve­lope. That will pre­vent air leak­age and nor­mally cre­ate a more hu­mid en­vi­ron­ment in­side your house. Up­grad­ing from a mid-ef­fi­ciency fur­nace, which vents through a tra­di­tional chim­ney, will fur­ther in­crease the rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity in the home by re­mov­ing that nat­u­ral vent to the ex­te­rior. If you do de­cide to change your fur­nace, up­grad­ing or adding bath­room and kitchen ex­haust fans, or in­stalling a ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem (HRV), may be needed to take care of that ex­tra mois­ture. A less crit­i­cal, but of­ten over­looked, area to ex­plore is the lo­ca­tion of the fur­nace for vent­ing of the new High-E model. Since the new fur­nace is nor­mally vented hor­i­zon­tally through the top of the foun­da­tion wall, lo­ca­tion can be im­por­tant to pre­vent the need for other mod­i­fi­ca­tions. If the fur­nace is be­side a foun­da­tion wall where the ex­te­rior is too close to tall fences, neigh­bour’s homes, garages, sheds, or thick veg­e­ta­tion, in­stal­la­tion of the vent may be tricky. If the fur­nace is near the cen­tre of your home, with dry­wall ceil­ings and fin­ished base­ment walls sur­round­ing it, other ren­o­va­tions may be re­quired to in­stall the vent pipes in a proper lo­ca­tion. The fi­nal item to ad­dress is your ques­tion about lo­cat­ing an im­par­tial en­tity to de­ter­mine if your fur­nace is truly in need of re­place­ment. You have al­ready dis­cov­ered Man­i­toba Hy­dro is re­luc­tant to in­spect fur­naces to see if an up­grade is re­quired. How­ever, they may come and eval­u­ate the safety of a unit, if a con­trac­tor has sug­gested a dam­aged heat ex­changer, or other de­fect, has made the unit un­safe for op­er­a­tion. You are cor­rect to as­sume that some HVAC con­trac­tors will give you a bi­ased eval­u­a­tion be­cause they may ben­e­fit in rec­om­mend­ing up­grades, but not all. I sug­gest call­ing two or three con­trac­tors, prefer­ably small in­de­pen­dent ones not tied to larger fran­chise oper­a­tions, to check your fur­nace. Trust tech­ni­cians who eval­u­ate other cri­te­ria, and not sim­ply age, in de­ter­min­ing the need for a change. Just be­cause a fur­nace is 15 years old should not im­ply it needs to be up­graded, if it is in good work­ing or­der and well main­tained. Find­ing an HVAC con­trac­tor that takes this ap­proach may not only an­swer your ques­tions, but pro­vide a more re­li­able com­pany to do your fur­nace main­te­nance in the fu­ture. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the past pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba (cahpi.mb.ca). Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out

his web­site at trained­eye.ca.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.