This time of year the furnace becomes a very important appliance. Checked it recently? What kind do you have - gas, oil or electric? Do you have an annual service contract? Do you need one? Replaced or cleaned the filter recently? Can you even get to your furnace?
A gas or oil furnace or boiler needs an annual tune up, particularly if it is older than 5 years. Newer units are more efficient than older ones. The new code requires a more efficient system, so if you are thinking of replacing your system you should understand that. The old code required systems with a minimum of a 10 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER). The new code requires a 13 SEER minimum. A 14 SEER is not much more money than a 13, but about 8% more efficient! I tell my clients to consider that...
Note: IF you are thinking of replacing your unit, consider the entire system, heating and AC. But do your homework. Find out estimated savings or monthly/annual costs. Calculate what you are spending now (based on your fuel costs per gallon or therm or kilowatt) and how much the new system will cost. Then you can calculate your savings. Divide those savings into the cost of a new system to figure out how many months or years it will take to break even. If you intend to stay in your house, the savings become a dividend! If you are selling your house, the new system becomes a feature!
A heat pump may not need an annual service contract, but it should be checked at least every other year. The same energy savings apply to them as to other units. Calculate your benefits of upgrading!
The most important maintenance you can do for your system is your air filter!! It should be replaced or cleaned monthly. There is some debate about whether to use the high-efficiency filters or just the blue ones. You will have to answer that for yourself.
My opinion is this: you can almost read a book through the blue filters. They filter anywhere from 8 - 15%. That means your system will need cleaning more frequently. The high efficiency filters capture more from the air. HVAC professionals do not recommend them because many people are not diligent about cleaning or replacing them monthly. If you use a high-efficiency filter you must be supremely diligent about replacing or washing it monthly...! The cheap filters are just that - cheap. The good ones do cost, some $22 each. That adds up!
I use the washable electro-static filter advertised on the radio (99% filtration). I have three in my house, and installed them when we moved in 10 years ago. They are diligently washed. My HVAC guy says that my units are exceptionally clean. The filters cost $65 each when I bought them and we have used them now for 122 months. That's only $.53/month. They were a great deal!
Don't pile stuff around your furnace (or water heater). You may need to get to them fast and they want to breath. If you can't see it, you will probably be less likely to remember the filter routine.
My recommendation: do some investigation. Do some math. Figure your benefits. The old adage, "If it ain't broke don't fix it," might not apply!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560