Basnett Plumbing, Heating & AC Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Furnaces’

When Should You Replace a Furnace?

Monday, November 20th, 2017

question-mark-blueA furnace is a common home heating system. It’s so common, in fact, that most people don’t give it a second thought. To many, it’s just another mundane appliance that, for the most part, works the way you need it to. Until it doesn’t.

At some point, any furnace will need replacement. But because it’s a system you don’t pay much attention to, you may not know when it’s finally showing signs that its time is up. This is a question our heating technicians get a lot: when will my furnace need replacement? And how will I know it’s time?

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A Guide to Modern Furnace Ignition Systems

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

For a gas-burning furnace to work during the winter keeping a building warm, it must have a system in place to ignite the main burner. Once lit, the burner creates the hot combustion gas that enters the heat exchangers and transfers to the air from the blower and into the house. For many decades, a pilot light was the standard way that furnaces lit their burners, but other more efficient and dependable methods have taken the place of the pilot light.

One thing that all furnace ignition systems have in common is that they should only receive maintenance and repair work from trained professionals. It’s potentially hazardous to attempt amateur work on the burner of a gas furnace, so if you should encounter a failed pilot light or electronic igniter in your home’s furnace, only call for repair experts. Basnett Plumbing & Heating has many years of experience working on furnaces in Dunstable, MA and throughout the MetroWest Area. Contact us whenever you need repairs to keep your furnace working.

The different types of furnace ignition systems

  • Standing pilot light: Although electronic igniters are more common in modern furnaces, you will still find furnaces that use a standing pilot light to ignite the burners. If you have an old furnace, it probably uses a traditional pilot light. If this is the case, you should consider replacing the furnace with a new and more energy-efficient unit.
  • Intermittent pilot light: This is a type of electronic igniter that lights up the pilot light only when it is needed, rather than letting the pilot light continue to burn and consume energy. A high voltage electric spark ignites the pilot whenever heat is required; once a flame sensing rod determines that the pilot light is on, the main burners ignite. After the pilot light goes out, the flame sensor shuts off the burner as well.
  • Hot surface igniters: This is the most up-to-date ignition system for furnaces. They work similar to the filaments in light bulbs: electricity passes through silicon carbide or nitride and causes the metal to glow hot. This heat is what lights the burners, and then shuts off when no longer needed. Because hot surface igniters do not use any sort of pilot light, they are both highly efficient and reliable. However, a single igniter will not usually last for the entirety of the furnace’s lifetime, and it will need replacement every 3-5 years.

If your furnace is not turning on when it should, a failed ignition system is one of the likely culprits.

Call Basnett Plumbing & Heating and we will send a skilled professional, one who has repaired many furnaces in Dunstable, MA, and help you get your heating system running once more.

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Chelmsford Heating Tip: Different Types of Furnace Filters

Monday, March 26th, 2012

A good filter for your furnace is a must. Because that device heats and blows air throughout your Chelmsford home, you want to be sure that it doesn’t recycle contaminants and bacteria that could easily be captured at the air handler. That’s why it’s vital to choose the right furnace filter on the first try. Here are some furnace filters to consider and their various benefits to your home and family:

  • Electrostatic – Most electrostatic filters are permanent and must be washed on a regular basis. They are electronically charged to capture particles as they pass through, much like a magnet. These filters are effective because they are both physical and electronic. However, keep in mind that they are only as efficient as the cleaning they receive.
  • HEPA – HEPA is the highest rating available for a filtration system, removing up to 99.9% of all particles as small as 0.3 microns. However, they are also inefficient when used in furnaces as they severely reduce air flow. They are not often recommended for this reason.
  • Pleated – Pleated filters come in both reusable and permanent forms and can be either purely mechanical or electrostatic. There is a very wide range of efficiency ratings for pleated filters so make sure you analyze your home’s specific needs before selecting any one pleated filter.
  • Activated Carbon – Activated carbon is unique from the other three filter types because it effectively removes fumes, odors and chemicals from indoor air along with other larger particles. It is recommended that if you choose an activated carbon filter, you supplement it with a pleated or electrostatic filter (or choose a combination filter) to remove all unwanted components from your home.

There are a lot of options when it comes to furnace filters. To make sure you get only the best air quality, talk to a Chelmsford heating professional who can help you determine which pollutants are the biggest problem in your home.

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Ayer Heating Tip: Hydronic vs. Forced Air System

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Both hydronic and forced air heating systems can serve you well depending on the specifics of your Ayer home and your household heating needs. Certainly each of these types of home heating systems has advantages and drawbacks, but there is really no clear cut answer about which is better. All you’ll be able to determine is which one is best for you.

While current discussions about hydronics have come to focus on the applications for in floor radiant heating, this category of heating systems is actually much broader than that. Really, all the term hydronics means is that the system uses water to carry the heat throughout the house instead of air. This is what traditional radiators always did, and these types of systems are certainly still perfectly appropriate for certain types of homes.

Particularly if your home doesn’t already have ductwork installed, hydronic heating might be the best option for you because it doesn’t require ducts to get the job done. All you’ll need to have installed are pipes to carry the water to different parts of the house. These pipes are much easier than ducts to install and take up much less space overall.

If you’d like to include radiant floor heating as part of this system you’re certainly able to. However, using only this type of heating to heat your entire house is not particularly efficient or practical. Radiant flooring is particularly useful in basements because no matter how warm the air in the room is, the floor in these areas will still be cold.

However, if you do already have ducts installed in your home, it may make perfect sense for you to have a forced air heating system installed. While there are sometimes problems with the evenness of the heating experience that you get with these types of heating systems, proper installation of a high quality system can usually mitigate those types of issues.

Forced air heating systems are also convenient because they are made to work in concert with many types of central air conditioning systems. If you have hydronic heating and think you’d like to have a central air conditioning system as well, you’ll either have to install multiple window or wall units or have ducts put in anyway.

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Groton Furnace Pointers: Fuel Types

Monday, January 9th, 2012

In most cases, you’ll have a choice concerning what type of fuel you’d like your Groton home’s furnace to burn. For most people, this choice comes down to propane, oil or natural gas. The one you choose could significantly impact the cost of heating your home for many years to come, but it’s usually a pretty clear cut decision.

One thing to remember is that most furnaces that burn natural gas can also burn propane. If you don’t yet have a propane tank but are considering getting one, you might not have to make a final decision just yet. Although it’s generally better to set up your furnace for one type of fuel and then leave it that way, you will likely still have the option of converting later on if you should choose to.

If you do have access to natural gas, though, that’s probably going to be your best option. Furnaces that burn natural gas or propane are generally much more efficient than any other type of furnace on the market. You can get them with annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings as low as 80% and as high as 97+%, so that ensures that you’ll be able to find the one to fit your specific situation.

If you’re facing particularly harsh and frigid winters, you’ll want to choose the most energy efficient option available to you and that’s pretty much always going to be a natural gas furnace. Of course, when you’re looking to decide between natural gas and propane as a fuel source, you’ll just want to compare the relative cost for each in your area. For some people natural gas is cheaper, while it’s propane for others. And since your furnace will operate at the same efficiency no matter which of these fuels you choose, you just need to choose the cheapest.

Oil is certainly an option as well, but if you’re looking for a very high efficiency furnace, you’re not going to find one that burns oil. That doesn’t mean that an oil burning furnace might not be a good investment for you. If you don’t have access to natural gas in your area and your heating load isn’t that high, oil might be a perfectly economical choice for you.

If you do opt for a super high efficiency furnace, but don’t have access to natural gas lines, propane is probably the way to go as opposed to oil.

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Downflow Gas Furnace Tips from Lincoln

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Proper care of your Lincoln home’s downflow gas furnace starts with proper installation and continues through routine cleaning and maintenance. But before you can even have a downflow gas furnace installed, you need to make sure it’s the right fit for your home.

Downflow gas furnaces are so named because of the direction that air flows through them. The cooler air is taken in at the top and directed downward, heating up as it travels, and then is expelled through the bottom of the furnace into ducts that feed the rest of the house. Because of this configuration, downflow  gas furnaces are typically installed in attics as opposed to basements.

If you have a basement and you’d rather install your furnace there, then an upflow furnace is probably the better choice for you. However, as many newer homes don’t have basements at all, downflow gas furnaces are growing in popularity and usefulness.

As with any other furnace, it’s important to have a downflow gas furnace professionally installed. This will ensure that the venting system is properly in place and that your house will be heated as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Of course, there are some other things you can do to help your furnace heat your home and keep your energy bills down. For instance, make sure you have proper insulation everywhere, particularly in the attic and crawlspaces where much of the normal heat loss in a home occurs.

You can also make your home more airtight in the winter by sealing up any unused windows and doors with plastic and making sure all storm windows are in place. Basically anyplace that a draft could develop, you could be losing heat and that costs you money. So to ensure that all of the money you’re spending to heat your house is actually going to that purpose, check periodically to make sure your home is still sealed up tight.

Also, just like any other type of furnace, a downflow gas furnace will require regular maintenance to make sure it continues to run efficiently and to replace any parts that may have worn out over time. Having a Lincoln HVAC technician come out once a year to carry out this type of service will wind up saving you a bunch of money and can help catch problems before they are able to get out of hand.

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A Question from Boxborough: What Is Forced Air Heating?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Chances are that you’ve heard the term forced air heating in Boxborough before, particularly if you’re in the market for a new home heating system. But what does that actually mean? The truth is that if you’re asking this question, you’re not alone. There are so many types of home heating systems out there that it’s common to be a bit confused and overwhelmed by it all.

The truth is that a forced air heating system is simply a heating system that distributes heat throughout your house using air to carry it. In this type of system, heated air travels through a system of ducts and is expelled through vents into the different rooms and areas of your home in order to maintain a particular temperature. That temperature, of course, is whatever you set your thermostat to, and when the desired temperature is reached, the heat will shut off until the temperature drops down again.

The main difference between the different types of forced air heating systems is the type of equipment that heats the air. For instance, you could have a gas furnace, an electric furnace, a heat pump or a hydronic coil. All of these are capable of heating air, and when paired with a fan, blower or air handler, can distribute heated air throughout your home.

Many forced air heating systems are remarkably energy efficient and can effectively keep you home comfortable all winter long. Additionally, they are generally made to be incorporated with central air conditioning systems for year round temperature control. Heat pumps are especially convenient in this way, as they’re able to both heat and cool your home depending on the season and your home comfort needs.

Particularly if you already have ductwork in place or if you’re choosing a heating system for a new construction home, it can make a lot of sense to opt for some type of forced air heating. However, if you’re looking to replace an existing heating system in a house that doesn’t already have ductwork in place, the need to put it in can add a lot to the overall installation costs of the system.

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An Ayer Contractor Guide: Pros and Cons of Various Heating Systems

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

When it comes time to install a new heating system in your Ayer home, there are a lot of options to consider. Many people get overwhelmed when confronted with all of the furnaces, boilers and heat pumps on the market these days. So, to help you get a handle on what each has to offer and which will offer you the best benefits, here is an overview of the modern heating system market.

Furnaces

Furnaces are the core of a forced air heating system and use gas, oil or electricity to heat air which is then circulated through your home by a blower in your air handler. Furnaces are among the most fuel efficient heating systems on the market today with options available at up to 95% AFUE (meaning it uses up to 95% of the fuel consumed to produce heat). They are also inexpensive to install and while they don’t last quite as long as boilers, they are highly efficient when well cared for.

Boilers

Boilers use gas, oil or electricity to heat water or steam which is then circulated through your home into radiators or baseboard heaters. The heated water or steam releases heat into your home and heats it in turn. While not quite as energy efficient as a high efficiency furnace, boiler heat is perfect for homes with existing radiators and no room for vents and ductwork. It also has less of an impact on indoor air quality since there is no air movement and boilers tend to last a very long time when well maintained.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular, especially in milder climates where it rarely gets below 40 degrees F. A heat pump uses the same technology as an air conditioner to extract heat from outside using a compressor, evaporator coils, and condenser coils with refrigerant.

It is most efficient in the spring and fall when temperatures are mild, but it uses much less energy than either a boiler or furnace and it can be used in the summer to cool your home. When properly maintained, a heat pump will last 10-20 years and save quite a bit of money, though it is recommended that you have an emergency heat source for days when the temperature outside gets below 40 degrees F.

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What’s the Difference Between a Furnace and a Boiler? A Question from Arlington

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

When it comes time to choose a new heating system for your Arlington home, there is a good chance your choices are limited. Most homes already have either forced air or radiant heat equipment installed so choosing something different would be costly and unnecessary. But, if you have a choice or are moving into a new home, here are some things to consider regarding the difference between furnaces and boilers.

What a Furnace Does

A furnace uses a fuel like gas, oil or electricity to heat a series of coils in the device. The furnace then uses a blower to push air across the heated coil and into an air handler where it can be distributed throughout your home. This is called a forced air system and requires a combination of ducts and filters to keep air moving smoothly and cleanly throughout your home.

If you have access to gas, a gas furnace with an AFUE of 90% or higher is one of the most efficient and cost effective ways to heat your home. These furnaces can also last upwards of 20-25 years with proper maintenance.

What a Boiler Does

A boiler is different in that it uses water as the heat carrying medium, not air. Boilers still need gas, oil or electricity to heat up the water in the system, though they often use less of it than a traditional furnace – depending on the age of the furnace and the boiler. After water is heated in the boiler, your radiant heating system carries the water to baseboard heaters or radiators throughout your home. This form of heat is preferred by many because it doesn’t require ductwork (which requires extra maintenance) or extra air filtering and it is more humidity friendly in a large home.

In terms of efficiency, both boilers and furnaces are efficient if you’re buying a new model. Capacity is also evenly matched. Boilers take the edge in comfort level and if you have the budget, you can install radiant floor heating which allows you to pipe hot water directly into bathroom floors or your living space so that you never again need to walk on cold floors. Another benefit of radiant heating is that the system will hold heat much longer and then release it over time instead of turning on and off a lot as a furnace tends to do.

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