Thinking about Replacing your Furnace?
Fuel costs are real crazy these days, thanks in part to Hurricane Katrina unfortunately. For the most part though, gas is competitively priced, so it don’t make much sense to switch to oil or electricity. Standard 80% furnaces are already pretty efficient, but not as good as the best condensing-type gas furnaces, which capture up to 97 percent of the fuel’s energy. If your furnace were old and worn out, your decision would be easy—buy a more efficient model—but the average life of a well-maintained furnace is 25 years, so make sure you keep up with your furnace maintenance to keep it running as long and as efficiently as possible.
If you did replace your furnace with a 97 percent efficient system, you’d cut your heating bills around 20 percent. To see if it’s worth spending the money, add up the fuel bills for last winter—your gas utility will have records—then multiply that sum by 20 percent. Divide that figure into the cost of buying and installing the new system, about $3,000 or so, and you’ll see how many years it will take to recoup your investment.
Depending on the size of your house, you’ll see a payoff soon, even if you add 50 percent to last year’s bills to account for this winter’s projected increase in natural gas costs. Of course, every dollar that gas prices go up will shorten the payback time, but prices could also fall and lengthen the payback. Anytime you increase the efficiency of your home heating system its always going to provide benefits.
If you decide to wait on replacing the furnace there are ways to reduce the heating load. Ask your utility company to perform an energy audit. That will probably uncover some relatively inexpensive upgrades, such as new weatherstripping or added insulation. Also, ask the company that maintains your furnace about ways to improve its performance. For instance, you might be able to replace a standard pilot light with electronic ignition or seal the joints in your ductwork. These minor improvements will help reduce heating costs and make you more comfortable without draining your bank account.