Controlling Heating Costs

home furnace


You always hear about the 20 something’s going to college, graduating and moving back into their parent’s home. We never thought this would happen to us but it is a reality and our son is back home. For a college graduate jobs are hard to find and if you don’t have a job you can’t live on your own. It was great to have the family together under one roof again but the time has come for him to move on. He has been working two jobs and long hours and has saved enough money and found the home that he can afford.

It is a small saltbox style home plan with 3 bedrooms and 1 ½ baths. It has a two-car garage and a basement foundation. There is definitely room to make improvements including redoing the outdated kitchen and baths, replacing old windows and doors, upgrading light fixtures, appliances, etc. The list could go on and on but a “money pit” is not what is needed. For now a fresh coat of paint on the walls and trim will make a huge difference and is also in the budget. What is going to take much of his budget is that the furnace no longer works and needs to be replaced. The previous owners used space heaters since the furnace was not working but that is way too dangerous. Since he is working so many hours and I am retired, finding the right furnace was my job and I had to start at square one since I’m not too familiar with what is available. I have never bought a furnace. All the homes we moved into already had an existing unit that worked fine – at least I thought so.

Some things to take into consideration when searching for a furnace are determining what fuel sources are available, making sure the unit is sized correctly for your home, buying an appropriate efficient furnace for your needs, and getting the best price for the unit.

First and most important is to determine what fuel sources your home has. If it is an existing home like what my son purchased there are limitations as to what is available in the neighborhood. Options for furnaces include all electric, gas-fired (including natural gas and propane) and oil-fired. Once you find the fuel source you can start the search for a new furnace.

A must is to purchase the right size unit for the home that you intend to heat. Too small of a unit will result in never being comfortable because the unit cannot push enough air. There is also the possibility of unnecessary oversizing and this is what usually happens. This will cost more to operate and won’t run as efficiently. You need to look at the BTU (British thermal unit) of the unit. This is a standard measuring unit that states how much heat a furnace produces. This is then multiplied by the efficiency of the unit to give you the end result of how much heat gives off. Let’s say a 1000 BTU furnace is 85% efficient – that results in 850 BTUs of heat. That was the easy part. The hard part is to figure out how much BTU is needed to heat the house. It is not as easy as looking at square footage. Other factors include insulation, windows and doors and how energy efficient they are, how well the ducts are insulated, flues and chimney, vaulted ceiling areas and how many levels of your home will be heated with the unit.

If you feel comfortable that you can determine these factors. Energy Star has a free calculation tool that can help you or if you know a reputable builder or even better would be an HVAC contractor that can do this for you. But remember – they will also be trying to sell a unit so make sure you trust them so you don’t overbuy.

I touched a little on efficiency earlier but want to give a little more information. All newer model furnaces are given an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). This is a rating that shows how energy efficient the models are and how much heat is outputted based on the heat content of the gas. A good furnace will have 80% and a higher energy efficient model will have a rating of 90%. The more energy efficient the more savings to the consumer and will also help the environment.

Getting the best price for a new furnace will mean doing some legwork. After you have determined what you need get costs for units from multiple suppliers. Once you make the decision on the unit get someone reputable to properly install the unit and to make sure the ductwork is sealed and insulated properly so there is no air loss.

Now that I have completed the research and found out all that goes into finding the right furnace it may be a good thing to upgrade our old unit in our home with a more energy efficient model that will save us money in the long run.

When it comes to my son, I suggested the unit he needs but it is up to him to take care of the rest which will include cleaning and replacing filters, cleaning the registers, regular maintenance of the unit and deciding what type of thermostat he wants to use. With him being gone most of the day a programmable one may be the best bet for him. That way he can be confortable when he wakes up, the unit will lower itself once he is out of the house and then will kick back on before he walks in the door at night. But like I said – this is his responsibility.

It is an exciting time in his life and we are so glad we could help out with moving him into his first home. Being a homeowner is quite an adventure but it is a rewarding adventure knowing you own a home. He doesn’t live that far away but we will sleep better at night knowing he is safe – well, not only safe, but also warm and comfortable with his new furnace installed.

For more great information on your home and living, visit the Article Resource Center at House Plans and More.

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