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Autumn: time to evaluate the health of your furnace

Uh-oh. It’s another one of those warning articles to help you ward off impending homeowner doom. Sometimes, however, it’s wise to sit up and take notice. By doom, we mean replacing your furnace before it stops providing you with life-sustaining warmth and as a result, finds you walking around your house in a ski jacket and thermal socks.

Realtor’s Anayat Durrani offers words of foreboding: “While replacing a furnace can be pricey, face the facts: It will be necessary at some point. Putting it off too long can actually cost you money—and can be hazardous.” If and when your furnace breaks, it’s not only uncomfortable; it’s downright dangerous. She cites HVAC expert, Mark Dawson, who adds, “Many Americans die every year from exposure [to cold] inside their homes.”

Most furnaces are gas-powered central air systems, heating the air and then forcing it through ducts and vents. But Durrani also explains that understanding how your furnace works is vitally important. For instance, while a furnace should last about 15 to 30 years before you’ll need a replacement, exactly how long yours will last depends on the brand, furnace quality, and its overall efficiency. 15 to 20 years into its use, a furnace’s performance will most likely start to dwindle. And while you can make repairs, over time it’s more cost-efficient to replace the furnace altogether.

A telltale sign that it’s time to shop for a new furnace is a sudden spike in your heating bills — a blaring red signal that your system is running less efficiently. “Over time, motors in the furnace begin to wear and use more energy to do the same amount of work they did when the unit was new,” says an American Home Shield expert. “This will lead to a pricier bill at the end of the month.”

Clogged ducts can be the cause of more dirt falling from vents as well as the root cause of improper airflow to parts of the home, says Durrani. “Very old systems—especially in homes with pets or smokers—are often in serious need of a thorough duct cleaning. And while a dirty furnace can be a sign of lack of maintenance, it could put you on the express lane to needing a replacement.” Cleaning the burners for proper combustion will eliminate soot, and general maintenance such as duct cleaning and changing the unit’s filters will fix the dust issue. In essence, by doing this you are adding to the life of your furnace in general.

If your house seems humid, it’s another sign it’s time to shop for a new furnace. An optimally operating combusting furnace will dry out the air and remove humidity. But over time, the heat exchanger can develop thermal fuel residue. That residue will prevent your furnace from heating up enough to then remove humidity from the air. This can lead to higher than normal humidity—the ideal balance is between 30% to 40%—in the home.

And then there is the cold spot phenomenon in your house that has nothing to do with the paranormal. “When your kitchen is hot while your den is freezing, it’s probably time to replace your furnace,” says Durrani. This happens when the furnace isn’t pushing out the necessary heat throughout the home as it should. Repairing it is only a short-term solution, however. “A good rule of thumb is if a repair costs about 50% or more of a new furnace, you should get a new one,” adds one expert.

Realtor, TBWS

"Home Owner", Misc, Seasonal