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Furnace FAQs

What is AFUE?

The acronym stands for “Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency.” It can partially be considered a counterpart to the SEER rating used for AC systems, and basically it’s a measurement of how well your furnace converts fuel (gas or oil) into heating energy. The higher the rating, the less the system wastes energy, so in general you want as high an AFUE as your budget can comfortably allow.

When should I replace my furnace?

The lifespan of a modern furnace can swing a bit, but can usually be expected to range within 15-20 years. This depends on how heavily the unit is used, whether or not you get annual furnace maintenance, the type of system you have, the unit’s AFUE, and more factors.

How can I increase my furnace’s energy-efficiency?

There are many modern advancements that can help you with this. For starters be sure to get routine tune-up and maintenance services. They’re a stress-free and low cost way to drastically improve and maintain efficiency. Beyond this keeping up with good heating practices is important. Accessories like programmable thermostats and humidifiers can help quite a bit as well.

Can a humidifier really add efficiency?

And comfort, in fact! Adequately moist air carries heat better, helping minimize cold spots and assisting your system in heating your home more evenly. That means the unit has to work less hard, and thus use less fuel to get the job done. Plus you’ll deal with a lot less dust!

Is a gas or electric furnace better?

Honestly speaking there is no “better.” It’s all about matching your needs with the right system. Electric systems are easily accessible, typically cost less upon purchase (though cost more to operate), and not everyone has access to natural gas. Gas furnaces are very powerful, last longer than electric furnaces, and usually cost less to run and operate.

Does a gas furnace still use electricity?

It does. Many systems including the thermostat, the ignition, and blower systems all use electricity to operate. That means the whole myth of “works when the power’s out!” is just that. A myth, unfortunately.

How do I know when I need repair?

Any time your system is acting unusual is a good time to call in an expert. The cost of a diagnosis is far less than what usually happens if systems are left to get worse (aka furnace replacement). Call an expert if your system is:

  • Operating less effectively than usual
  • Leaving cold spots
  • Leaking water
  • Making loud or weird noises
  • Costing more than usual to run

When is it a “heating emergency”?

Any time you’re uncomfortable! At the same time we understand that most folks would prefer to not call for emergency service unless they have to. Generally we would recommend calling for emergency service for electrical-related issues, loud noises (they usually mean busted parts), if the unit is blowing cold air, or for unusual odors related to gas.

Why does my furnace smell odd?

That depends on what kind of odd smell you’re dealing with. Dusty, musty odors can be normal at first fire-up at the beginning of the winter. If the odor persists then you probably need to clean your vents, or the unit needs a tune-up. Sulfurous, rotten egg-like odors indicate a gas leak and that’s very dangerous. What you’re smelling is mercaptan, an additive gas companies put in natural gas, which is usually odorless on its own. Shut off your gas and call for service ASAP!

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