Most homeowners want to ensure that their HVAC systems are ready to meet the heating needs of their home well before winter's cold temperatures arrive. Unfortunately, many of these same homeowners may not fully recognize the signs that their current furnaces are at or near the end of their dependable lifespan. If you have concerns about the condition of your current heating system and whether it will be able to provide reliable comfort for your family this winter, this information can help you decide how to proceed.
Examine annual fuel or electricity usage related to heating
When age, condition or looming repair issues begin to steal efficiency from a furnace, one of the first signs is typically an increase in the amount of electricity or fuel it uses to produce heat. Because electricity cost per kilowatt hour fluctuates based on location and other factors, homeowners who have an electric furnace will need to look at the total kilowatt hours used during each month of the heating season, instead of just the dollar amount of their electricity bill.
Many electrical utility providers furnish their customers with helpful graphs, charts and tools on their website that allow them to log in to see and compare historical data over a selected time period. In many instances, these web tools also provide median temperature data so that homeowners can better understand their electricity usage. By comparing the information available for heating seasons over the past two to three years, homeowners can begin to see how an aging electric furnace may be increasing its usage of electricity with each passing year.
Because fuel oil, propane and natural gas prices also fluctuate, homeowners who use these fuels for their heating systems will also need to look beyond the actual dollar amount of each fuel bill and focus instead on the gallons of propane or oil or the cubic feet of natural gas that have actually been consumed. By using this information and comparing it with weather data over two or more seasons, homeowners can begin to see if their heating systems are using more fuel to produce heat with each passing season.
Look for changes in the comfort level inside your home
Another common sign that a furnace is beginning to operate less efficiently than it should is when homeowners begin to notice uncomfortable changes in the level of comfort their home offers during the heating season. Older furnaces or those that have developing repair issues frequently become less able to produce or move the heated air throughout the entire home. Weakened blower systems, damaged or clogged ducts and other issues can seriously impact the ability of the furnace to effectively heat the interior spaces of the home.
Understand how furnace sizing issues can impact HVAC efficiency
Homeowners may also find that their current furnaces are no longer able to keep their homes comfortable during winter weather after some types of changes are made in the footprint or design of their home. In particular, any renovation or expansion that adds finished space to the home can be a problem for an existing furnace that is incorrectly sized to handle the heating needs of the larger space, even if the ducts have been extended.
Many homeowners do not realize that size is not the best indicator of efficiency or safety in residential furnaces. Systems that are too large or too small can cause the development of interior humidity issues, uneven heating, and a general lack of both comfort and efficiency. Homeowners can get more information about the condition of their current heating system and any advantages they may experience by replacing it by discussing their concerns with a residential HVAC contractor in their area.