Understanding the Reality of Old Furnaces

Old Furnaces vs. New Furnaces

We’ve all heard the old saying “they don’t make things like they used to.” In some instances there is a reason for this. Like the engine of an old car, old furnaces (20+ years) were simple systems build to last. These systems were not intensive to maintain. But like your old car, old furnaces are gas guzzlers with a fuel efficiency that is less than optimal.

In recent years the government has created efficiency regulations for furnaces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. As of December 31, 2009 the required AFUE rating for gas furnace is set at a minimum of 90 percent. AFUE stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency. It is a measure of a gas furnace’s efficiency in converting fuel into usable energy.

A 20 or 25 year old furnace has an efficiency rating of about 60%. Instead of warming your house, 40% of the heat generated through combustion of natural gas goes up the flue and out the chimney.  High efficiency furnaces of today on average have an efficiency rating of 95%. That means 35% of the gas and old furnace uses is simply being wasted.

With harsh Canadian winters and rising gas prices, furnace efficiency hugely impacts your monthly utility bills. We are now feeling this direct economic impact as consumers through the new Alberta Carbon Levy.

To replace or not to replace: that is the question.

There’s no saying your 8 year old furnace won’t kick the bucket tomorrow. Or that your 18 year old furnace is ready for the dump. After all, age is just a number. The cost to keep your furnace running can give you more concrete reasons on whether or not replacement is the best option for you.

A broken fan can cost between $500 to $900 to replace. Replacing your furnace with a high efficiency unit can cost upwards of $4000 to $6000 to install. Repairing a furnace is dollar to dollar cheaper than replacing. However, like all machines furnaces break down most frequently as they approach the end of their life. Over time the parts needed to repair an older furnace become scarce and more expensive. Factoring in both current and future repairs is important in knowing when to replace.

Another thing to consider is the safety of your home. Aging furnaces run the risk of developing cracks in the heat exchangers. These cracks can be responsible for carbon monoxide leaking into your home. When you breathe in CO, it reduces your body’s ability to carry oxygen in the blood. This causes CO poisoning which can be life threatening. According to statistics Canada, there were 380 accidental deaths caused by carbon monoxide between 2000 and 2009. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/carbon-monoxide-poisoning-5-things-to-know-about-the-silent-killer-1.2575563

When taking into consideration your natural gas usage, inflated repair costs, and safety you can decide if it is time to replace your furnace. If you’re looking for information on replacement or would like to set up a free in home estimate, give us a call today at 780-438-2900.


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