May 2, 2011

#166- It's Getting Hot in Herre

Let's keep this short and sweet, because if I'm honest, there is nothing at all exciting or fun about installing a new furnace.  But we didn't have any choice, the furnace in The Lodge was DOA.  It was original to the house, over 30 years old, and it was actually red tagged by the city, which means it is unsafe and prohibited to run.  The good news is that we worked the cost of the furnace into our purchase, and got permission from the sellers to do the work prior to closing since the house was vacant, so that we could get approved for our mortgage.  (There's no bank in the world that will give a home in Minnesota a mortgage without a working furnace.)  Here's the big, ugly, old guy as he looked on inspection day:



Being first timers to the HVAC circuit, we did a lot of research before reaching out for 3 different quotes.  In reality there are just a few things that distinguish furnaces:

1. Percent Efficiency.  By law, all furnaces must now be 76% efficient or better.  Most are categorized at 80%, 90%, 95% or 96%+.  While an 80% meets code and is cheaper to purchase on the front end, it costs more to run. Many websites suggest that you do the math on annual cost savings of the more efficient furnace, and then figure how many years it will take you to make up the cost difference.  Since we plan to be in this house for a long time, (i.e. forever), we knew that spending the money up front for the better furnace would save us in the long run.  More importantly though, we learned that an 80% efficiency means that 20% of the energy that is pulled from the grid to run the furnace is wasted.  Just floats out into the air.  Maybe it's the Catholic guilt instilled in me, but I just wouldn't feel comfortable in our "let nature in" home if we knew we were wasting resources inside it.  So we went with the 95%, since our set up did not provide accurate ventilation for the 96%+.  As a bonus, we'll be receiving about $500 worth of rebates from the government, our natural gas and our energy company, which made the moral decision even easier. 

2. Consistent or Variable Speed Fans.  While traditional furnaces have 1 fan speed that turns on or off when the home needs to be heated or cooled, variable speed fans have a second speed that runs very low, and constantly circulates the air throughout the home.  Although you would think that a fan constantly running would use more energy, (I did), it is actually much more efficient because the very low speed fan keeps the air at a more consistent temperature.  The result is that you don't have to wait until your house gets too cold, and then use a blast of energy to raise the heat again, it is continuously circulating the warm (or cool) air from within the home.  Anybody have one of those rooms in your house that are always warmer/cooler than others?  We were specifically worried when we noticed these in the 2 kids rooms:


Yep, they installed electric baseboard heaters, basically screaming that these rooms get too cold and don't heat accurately.  We're hoping that a furnace that wasn't created in the disco area will help that, but the variable speed fans should make a huge improvement as well.  Now we will be constantly cycling warm air into these rooms from throughout the house, rather than letting the temperature keep dropping in there until the thermostat, located way back in the Dining Room in the warm core of the home, registers that the house needs more heat.  We'll live with the baseboards through all four seasons just to make sure we still don't need them before doing anything drastic though. 

And here's how the bad guy looks today:

Happy dance for work that got done in the home before we even moved in!  With all the projects on our plate, we are so glad for work that is done, and completed by someone else.  Anyone else have to drop a fortune on a big, expensive, not exciting home improvement?  There is nothing worse than dropping a huge chunk of change on a part of the house that isn't seen, am I right? 

5 comments:

  1. The high efficiency system is amazing. Our heating bills went from $300 something a month to just under $100.00. Every room in the house is the same temp and the fan only takes the energy of a 40 watt bulb. Don't know why we didn't do this years ago.

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  2. It's been years now, and I hope you experienced the importance of a heating system in your house. Since winter is already approaching, I bet you're already preparing your furnace for the whole season, aren't you? I do hope you're satisfied with its heating capacity and the savings from the energy that it saves. :)

    Christine Allred @ QualityHeating.com

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