HVAC expert discusses furnaces
Who we talked to
Karl Northern has kept his customers' homes comfortable since starting his heating and cooling company in 2001. His company motto, "Treat customers as they want to be treated, no exceptions," works; Northern Heating Cooling has earned an Angie's List Super Service Award every year from 2001 to 2007.
What are some telltale signs that a furnace may need to be replaced?
"The biggest red flag for replacing an out-of- warranty furnace is a cracked heat exchanger. You might not see any symptoms, but some noticeable signs may be flames rolling from the furnace or ignition delay, which may be a flash of flame or the sound of a small explosion. A cracked heat exchanger can omit carbon dioxide, creating a potentially hazardous situation that should be dealt with immediately. Heat exchanger replacement costs approximately 30 percent of a new furnace's cost, and it's usually a special-order item. Generally, it doesn't make sense to replace furnaces less than 10 years old. If your furnace is out of warranty and it's more than 10 years old, it's a good idea to weigh the replacement cost versus the cost of running inefficient equipment. Most furnaces have a 15- to 20-year lifespan. Furnaces older than that are extremely inefficient and should be replaced."
What can homeowners do to prolong their furnace's life?
"The most important preventative maintenance is checking the filter. Many homeowners are shocked to hear that not replacing a $15 to $40 filter can cause a $600 repair, but it's true. Dirty filters restrict airflow and strain both heating and cooling components. It's important to schedule regular maintenance so service companies can keep an eye out for bad components that will harm your system."
What should homeowners consider when purchasing a new furnace?
"Consider your budget, and the efficiency and increased cost of an upgraded furnace. The size of the home definitely matters for determining what size furnace should be used. Over- or under-sizing will affect efficiency, lifespan and the amount of repairs necessary. A general rule of thumb is to install a unit that produces 34 to 40 BTUs [British thermal units] per square foot. Also, we'll size a unit for the coldest weather to ensure you'll be warm when it's extremely cold. Most often, we install Rheem furnaces, which are in the upper $2,000 to the mid-$5,000 range. Installation usually takes a day or two."