HVAC (heating/ac)

FURNACES

FURNACES

Forced Air Furnace – Gas furnaces are the most popular furnaces for Residential and Commercial properties. There are oil fired and electric furnaces but they are not as popular.

Today’s gas furnaces are highly efficient with 2 stage heat exchanger’s, multi stage gas valves and ECM blower motors, they can have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of between 90 and 97 percent. Where the AFUE is a comparison of the input to the output fuel. The higher the number the more efficient the unit is. When used in conjunction with a set back thermostat today’s furnaces can be set to turn on and off at certain times of the day or even run all day at low settings (less energy loss) to keep the air in the house circulating and evenly distributed.

Forced air furnaces will have a furnace unit usually sitting in the basement with large square vents or plenum running along the ceiling areas which delivers the air to the individual rooms – you will notice rectangular metal boxes usually on the floor below the windows in each room, these are called Heat Registers this is where the heat or A/C is blowing out from.

The newer high efficient furnaces typically have plastic type piping to exhaust the left over gas and sometimes an air intake pipe to bring in fresh air. Some installations may not require the air intake pipe, if there is enough free or fresh air around the furnace then you can use the house air. If your furnace is located inside a room or inside the laundry room it may be considered to be an enclosed furnace room and may require the fresh air intake pipe and or fresh air to be available at all times. This can be done by using a louvered door to the furnace room or grills to be installed on the furnace room door or wall – I highly recommend you call a licensed HVAC Specialist to help determine your specific requirements.

If you don’t provide fresh air then combustion gases may spill back into the house and possibly be a health/safety issue – carbon monoxide poisoning. Always make sure you have regulation Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors in the required areas…check with your local fire department.

Furnace - Plastic Pipes (newer style)
Furnace - Metal Pipes (older style)

Energy Efficiency – The ENERGY STAR® symbol is a consumer icon in the Canadian marketplace. It instantly identifies residential and commercial products that have qualified as high efficiency. The NRC – Choosing the right Furnace can save you money when choosing an energy efficient product.

ENERGY STAR Canada is a voluntary partnership between the Government of Canada and manufacturing industry to make high efficiency products readily available and visible to Canadians. There are over 70 products which have the energy label. Check out our Energy Efficient Building Section for more info.

The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has a certification program that is relied heavily upon by regulators for accurate and unbiased evaluation of heating, water heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and commercial refrigeration equipment. They also have a Directory of Certified Product Performance List for heating and air conditioning products, providing residential and commercial equipment performance claims which have been independently measured and verified. When you go to the site, look directly below the search box, there are additional search tabs (ref#, model # and product type).

Sizing a Furnace – When considering adding or replacing air conditioning or heating to your home, ensure you hire an installation contractor who will treat your house as a complete system addressing ventilation and “size” the system properly. A Qualified Contractor will not recommend equipment size based solely on the size of your home or assume that your existing equipment was sized properly in the first place.

Be sure to also tell your contractor if you plan to renovate in the near future. Changing windows, upgrading insulation levels, finishing the basement, air-sealing or a new addition will impact the sizing calculation for any new system.

Not only will a unit that is too big turn on and off more often, which is annoying but over-sizing equipment can result in increased fuel consumption and higher operating costs which is inefficient and can contribute to premature part failure, higher noise levels and reduced comfort (hot or cold spots within the home).

There are several online heat loss calculators but there is much more to performing a proper heat loss and heat gain calculation especially for brand new installations and or homes that have been renovated, have a look at HRAI’s Heat Loss Calculation Worksheet and see the depth involved.

HVAC Qualified Contractor – I would recommend you hire a qualified contractor that has the appropriate skills to perform a “heat loss and heat gain calculation” based on professional guidelines, to calculate the proper size of heating and cooling equipment that your home requires. Be sure to request a “heat loss and heat gain calculation” as part of your purchase process. To complete the heat load calculation, the contractor will need to take measurements during the initial visit to your home and ask some questions, such as:

  • Local climate conditions:
  • Size and number of windows that let in heat from the sun
  • Sizes of rooms
  • Existing insulation levels of the home
  • Number and lifestyle of your home’s occupants…ETC.

Furnace Cost – It depends. If your furnace is older and has a metal type vent which is connected to a chimney it may require a net new installation, meaning the new furnace being high efficient will require the plastic type piping (gas exhaust and fresh air intake) to be installed directly outside the exterior wall of your house, which will also depend on where the pipes can actually be run (if any windows, gas meter or air intakes are in the way). Generally this type of installation can run approx $4,000-$6,000.

Today you can rent your furnace. This is great if you don’t have any money and it’s the middle of winter, but be sure this is what you want, most contracts will probably be long term and at the end may cost more if not much more than the actual purchase price. Read your contract make sure your okay with it!. Make sure you read over our sections on Life Expectancy/Pricing and Contractors for more info.

Which Furnace Mfg? – People always ask me this questions and I can’t really compare the different manufacturers such as; Lennox, Goodman, Carrier, York and so many others. In my experience furnaces built over the last say 15 years have more components and electronics, it’s not a matter of who is better, but if they break down who do I call and how much will it cost me…because it’s not if they break down it’s when will they and most will require parts replacements probably within 3-7 years. How long will they last will also depend on the maintenance you provide and how often they are being used. Based on Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components is approx 15 years.

Furnace – Service/Maintenance – You may elect to have your furnace put on service/maintenance contract. Were the company will come over 1-2/year and service your furnace also if a component breaks they typically come and repair/replace without any additional charges depending on which service level you purchase. The most popular companies would be Reliance and Enercare but there are many other smaller firms who can provide service. YOU need to do your homework on this and READ the fine print – some don’t cover furnace filters!

Furnace Rebates – You may be eligible for Rebates from Enbridge. Individual manufacturers may even offer an incentive program, make sure you ask your approved retailer. Find out which manufacturer your approved retailer is recommending (typical brands include Kenmore, Goodman, Lennox, Sears, Keeprite) and then check that mfg website to see if they offer any further incentives/rebates directly to YOU the consumer.