Winter Furnace Troubles

As winter sets in and the rain brings a chill, many throughout New Jersey will be reaching for their thermostat. However, if you haven’t had your heater on in a while, here are a few tips to make sure you and your family aren’t left in the cold as the temperatures fall throughout the season…
Most furnace problems will present themselves almost instantaneously the first time the furnace is fired up for the winter. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to start the furnace at least a month before you anticipate it will be needed. This will allow you to inspect for problems and plan repairs in advance so you’re not left cold in a house with no heat.
As you turn on your furnace for the first time this season, you may notice a funny smell. This is the small of dust being burned off the heating element. It should last for only a few minutes and is no cause for alarm. Similarly, you shouldn’t be worried about the odd noises or sounds that you may hear during the beginning of the season. These might be the sound of parts heating up or the sound of hot air being forced through air ducts that haven’t been used recently.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it may take a furnace a little while to heat up the first time it is turned on for the season. The cold air has to be pushed through the ducts and the unit itself has sat dormant for some time. This is not a reason for concern, however, should your unit take longer than usual on a regular basis, it could be a sign that the system is in need of repair.
If you find that you need furnace repair, call a professional for consultations and if needed, repairs.
Symptoms to watch out for may include:

  • A funny smell that doesn’t disappear within a few minutes of starting the unit.
  • Noises that persist or sound abnormal to past experience.

Remember that your heating system is most likely using the same air ducts as the air conditioner. Any duct problems that you had when running your air conditioner will be there when you run the heating system as well.
Also, be sure to change your filters regularly. An old filter makes the HVAC system work too hard to move air, and it might burn up early as a result.
If you want to make sure your home is winter ready, contact Your friends at Green Apple Mechanical NJ. We look at both commercial and residential systems, perform routine maintenance and alleviate the concerns of our clients. We’ll look forward to hearing from you. Call us at 888-611-7191

8 Furnace Warning Signs

Discover 8 fast and easy ways to know when to replace your gas furnace before it costs you money or becomes unsafe. A comfortable and healthy home environment requires an efficient and sound heating system. Such a system heats the home without using large amounts of energy and it does not endanger the indoor air quality by overtaxing the supply of oxygen needed for combustion.
It is important to know the 8 warning signs that your furnace may need replacing. It is especially important not to wait until a crisis occurs . A cold night in January, with the furnace faltering or failed, is not the time to assess your heating system. Do it now.
Information is the key to making a wise decision. This report will teach you what the 8 warning signs that your furnace may need replacing.
This report is based on research undertaken by the federal Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota Department of Public Service and electric and gas utilities. It also draws on the training resources of heating and cooling manufacturers, trade associations, and field service personnel.
1. How old is your furnace?
A good place to start is to compare your furnaces age to the national average. The average life expectancy of furnaces in homes today is between 16 and 20 years. If your furnace is close to this age or older, you should begin shopping. Shopping for a replacement furnace in an emergency does not allow time to make your best decision. Most people prefer to replace their furnace as a planned home improvement rather than a panic replacement when your furnace is faltering or failed. For starters, look at your furnace to see if you have a pilot light. If you do, it is almost certain to be over 25 years old!
2. Gas & Electric Bills Going Up?
Rising gas and electric prices are not the only reason for high bills. Furnaces often lose their efficiency as they age especially if they have not been properly maintained. As a result your furnace may run longer to provide the same amount of heat. This will cause your gas & electric bills to go up. The money you pay the gas & electric company every month could be used to pay for new furnace.
3. Any Furnace Repairs in the last 2 years?
Furnaces are like cars. As they age, you can replace one part only to have to replace another part next year. It doesn’t take long to spend $500 just to keep the old furnace running. Furnaces incur the most breakdowns in the last 2 years of their lives. Another repair sign is whether you had to wait to get parts replaced. As a furnace ages, it gets harder to get replacement parts. This waiting can really be cold on a below zero night.
4. Does your thermostat keep you comfortable?
Do you feel that some rooms are too cold while others are too hot? Or are you always trying to adjust your thermostat to make your home more comfortable? This is a sign that your furnace lacks the ability to properly distribute the air to keep you comfortable in your home.
5. Is your burner flame yellow instead of blue?
A yellow or flickering flame may be a sign that poisonous carbon monoxide could be created by your furnace. Other possible signs of carbon monoxide are: Streaks of soot around furnace; Absence of an upward draft in your chimney; Excess moisture found on windows, walls, or other cold surfaces; Excessive rusting on flue pipes, other pipe connections, or appliance jacks; Small amount of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent, or flue pipe; Rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from the outside.
6. Is your furnace making strange noises?
Old furnaces often start to make some strange noises as they get toward the end of their life. Have you heard any banging, popping, rattling, or squealing noises coming from your furnace? Another noise is when you hear the furnace blower running excessively. Does your blower turn on & off frequently or does it blow cold air sometimes? If so, this is a sign that your furnace may need to be replaced.
7. How have you & your family been feeling?
Furnaces as they age run the risk of developing cracks in the heat exchanger inside your furnace. Carbon monoxide, if present, could leak into your home undetected. Signs of this may be frequent headaches, a burning feeling in nose or eyes, nausea, disorientation, flu-like symptoms. Should you experience any of these, air out your house, open a window to the furnace room and immediately call a gas service technician. Cracks in the heat exchanger can occur undetected which is why no one advises waiting until they occur.
8. Is your house dry or dusty?
Old furnaces often lack the ability to moisturize and clean the air in your home. Your house air may feel stuffy or stale. Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies to airborne dust, mold, pollen, viruses or dander? Or does anyone suffer from dry nose, dry throat, or dry skin? Other signs may be frequent dust accumulation, static shocks, drooping plants, furniture cracking and musical instruments that do not stay in tune. These signs all suggest that your old furnace is not capable of providing you with the comfort you and your family may want.

Heating Equipment: Repair or Replace?

It happens eventually in every home. On a particularly frigid morning, you wake up and crank the thermostat just like usual, but there’s no response: No comforting sound of the system firing up and no warmth rising from the air vents or radiators. Hopefully it’s a simple problem that’s a quick and inexpensive fix, like a tripped circuit breaker or a clogged filter. But occasionally the repair is so big and costly that it raises an age-old question that’s been asked about everything from station wagons to vacuum cleaners: Is it more cost effective to fix what you have or replace it? Here’s how to decide.
Think safety first
If the problem presents a safety hazard, replacement is a no-brainer. For example, if your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger—the metal wall between the burning fuel and the air it’s heating—poisonous carbon monoxide gas could work its way into the household air supply, something you don’t want to risk. Other problems, like faulty electronics and stuck valves, can be repaired, which means you’ll need to do a cost-benefit analysis.
Consider the typical lifespan
A 2013 study by the National Association of Home Builders and Bank of America found that furnaces for forced-air systems last an average of 15 to 20 years; boilers for hot-water radiators and baseboards last 13 to 21 years. So start by dating your system. Some technicians write the year the equipment was installed directly on the unit. Otherwise, when the machine is off and cool, look for a metal identification plate, usually on the inside of chamber door. Record the model and serial numbers from the plate, then call the manufacturer’s customer service number to get the date of manufacture.
Keep in mind that a 25- or even 30-year-old system isn’t necessarily ready for the scrap heap. The published lifespans are averages, which means half of all systems are spent by that time, and the other half are still working well. Use these numbers as ballpark guidelines only, suggests Gopal Ahluwalia, the NAHB study’s lead researcher.
Assess the costs of repairing versus replacing
To decide your system’s fate, you need more data: the cost of your repair or replacement options, which your service provider can give you. Depending on the size of your house and the brand of new equipment you choose, a new hot-air furnace typically costs $1,500 to $4,000, while a boiler for a hot-water system might run $4,000 to $8,000.
As a general guideline, consider replacement if the equipment is beyond three-quarters of its life expectancy and repairs will cost more than a third of replacement. It’s probably not worth spending $700 to repair a 15-year-old furnace you could replace for $2,000.
Consider your heating plant’s efficiency
In these days of high fuel costs and concerns over our carbon footprints, you should also consider your heating plant’s efficiency. Its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency number (AFUE) measures the percentage of the fuel that’s converted to heat rather than being lost up the chimney or through other inefficiencies.
“If your system is 20 years old, its AFUE is probably about 70%,” says experts. Today’s minimum AFUE is 80%, which means you’ll burn 10% less fuel—and therefore spend 10% less money on your heating bills. You can go as high a 95% AFUE with new equipment, dropping your bills a whopping 25%. That kind of efficiency raises your equipment costs to $3,500 to $6,000 for a furnace and $8,000 to $10,000 for a boiler, but will also earn you a tax credit of up to $300 from the federal government. And there are many incentives.



How Much Does it Cost to Install a New Furnace?

Consider these tips to estimate the cost of a new furnace.
If your furnace fails, you’ll notice. Sometimes it’s possible to repair your furnace and get it back in shape, but eventually you’ll need to purchase a new unit. When installing a furnace becomes your best option, there are several important cost considerations to think about before signing a service contract.

Finding the right furnace

The first thing you’ll need to consider is the type of furnace to install. Since most furnaces last between 15 and 20 years, chances are the wealth of choices now available didn’t exist when your original unit was purchased. The most common residential furnace is powered by natural gas and can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $14,000. Oil furnaces preceded gas and are still available in some states, but these furnaces tend to be less efficient. They cost between $2,000 and $8,000 to install, possibly more if existing duct work needs to be adapted.
You can also choose to install electric heat, which comes from small registers located around the border of each room. Although the cost of installation averages between $1,000 and $2,000, this type of “furnace” isn’t a good idea for heating large spaces and comes with high energy costs. One newer option gaining popularity is a heat pump, which pulls in heat from the air or ground using refrigerant coils. Air source heat pumps cost $1,500 to $7,000, while ground source may cost $7,000 to $25,000. These furnaces can be used as air conditioning units in summer, but many can’t operate in extremely cold climates, limiting their efficacy.

Furnace efficiency

Gas furnaces come with a host of choices which can affect their price.
The first is heat output, measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs); an “average” home is well served by a 60,000 BTU furnace. Units with higher BTU rating aren’t necessarily better for smaller homes, since they’ll cost more and hit ideal temperatures too quickly, then shut off – the result is an inconsistent comfort level.
Efficiency is the next consideration. Older-model furnaces were often rated 80 percent efficient or less, which means 20 percent of the heat generated was lost to waste. Many new models are rated 90 percent or better, with some in the 94 to 95 percent range. This small jump in efficiency translates to a decrease in utility costs.
It’s also important to determine how effectively a gas furnace can heat your home, in large part determined by its “staging.” Older furnaces were one stage, meaning they always ran at full power. Many newer furnaces are two stage, capable of running at 65 percent when first starting up to conserve fuel, and then ramping up to 95 percent as needed. More expensive three stage models also exist, which can run anywhere from 33 to 90 percent power in 1 percent increments.

Considering labor costs

Installing a furnace also comes with labor costs. The price of labor isn’t fixed, but many companies charge approximately $75 per hour for a licensed installer and $50 for a helper. For an eight hour install, this comes to $1,000 for labor alone. Install costs may run higher if extensive duct work repair or modification is necessary, or if a new furnace is significantly smaller or larger than an existing unit.
Two warranties govern furnace installs and function. The first is the manufacturer’s warranty, which comes with the furnace and protects against defects in the furnace itself, such as inoperable fans or pilot lights that won’t stay lit. A contractor’s warranty covers the labor involved to make repairs if the furnace doesn’t work properly and is often good for a period of 5 to 10 years. Some contractors charge more for extended warranties.
Make sure to get any warranty in writing; also make sure that it specifies exactly what gets covered, for how long and what the contractor will do to fix the problem. Although the costs of installing a furnace vary significantly, you can avoid price pitfalls by doing your own research.