Do I need a new furnace, or I am being sold the wrong thing?

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My gas company found a problem with my current gas furnace (17 years old) -- essentially, it has a small backdraft, and they gave me 5 days to fix the problem. They claimed When I called an HVAC person, they said the problem might be with my chimney, which is unlined.
So I figured maybe I should see how much it might cost to have a new high efficiency furnace installed, and avoid the whole chimney problem (since redoing it would cost around 1000 at minimum, the last time a chimney contractor looked at the basement, they refused to do the job, as the last homeowner had covered EVERYTHING up, so the entire basement would have to be torn down before they could even get to the ducts, etc). In essence, it's very difficult to fix anything mechanical, given the current setup in the (now completely finished basement).
What ended up happening was that I got convinced by the furnace guy from Sears that a high efficiency furnace was a bad idea, since the house is really old (built before 1940), and installing a furnace like that in a house that wasn't built for it is not a good idea. He sold me on a 80% Kenmore, and told me things like - they would make sure the backdraft problem was fixed, since they're licensed, and they can't install a furnace incorrectly for fear of losing their license - the 2 bedrooms on the second floor would (finally) get heat because it would have a newer fan that would blow air stronger.
My worry is this -- backdrafts are usually caused by combustion problems (i.e. chimney). So would installing a new furnace really fix the problem?
Also, there is only 850 square feet in the place. Would electric baseboard heat be a cheaper alternative? Everyone says electric costs more, but the furnace would cost $4000 to install, and it is only 850 square feet...
Opinions or advice?
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I should also add that my heating bill is around $250 a month in the winter months. I live in the NorthEast, but people have told me that my heating bill shouldn't be so much for only 850 sq feet...
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My house is double the size, but I pay $1500 for heat and hot water for the entire year. Look into insulation, windows, etc. There is probably a lot to be saved.
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wrote:

That variance is normal. Some people like the themostat set on 80 and some 68. Some turn it down when they leave and some don't.
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On Jan 28, 10:15 pm, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I am puzzled by the comment on high efficiency furnace in an old house.
When I had a furnace replaced a few years ago, (because of a heat exchanger fault in a very old furnace) the only concern was running a new duct for fresh air from outside.
If your home is poorly insulated you will have to push a lot of heat into it .
I live in Wisconsin and it doesnt cost me $250 for gas for a month for about 900 sq feet .
I have heard that it is more cost effective to run a new flue pipe inside the chimney rather than repair it , if that is indeed your problem.
I am surprised that the inspector didnt give you more detail on the fault.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Hi, Sounds like his house is very poorly insulated or no insulation at all. My house is almost 3000 sq. ft and monthly gas bill is 135.00(furnace with set back digital thermostat and water heater). I live in colder Alberta. Why in this day and age, anyone would consider less than high effiincy furnace? In some places, that's only one allowed as a replacement.
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Wow,,$135 Can. per month to heat 3,000 sq ft.? Your house must be tighter than a $2 dress on a $10 whore..Are You talkin even-pay plan that You pay the same all year? How much per gallon/liter? I do'nt mean to sound facetious but I am amazed.. Dean
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No drafting could be a partialy blocked chimney, old brick, mortar or dead animals blocking draw, it could be as simple as removing the block or lowering the flue pipe to the furnce and a good cleaning. The more you spend on heat the more a condensing unit will payback and benifit you, so Sears tech lied... 850 sq ft $250 a month, I never paid more than $100 with 1600 sq ft in a zone 5 area that goes to -10f. You have a basicly non insulated house that leaks like a seive. Now is not a good time to"shop" for a furnace you wont get a competitive price till the heating season ends and before the cooling season starts. Plus you need a load calculation, bids and an understanding of whats out there. Best would be get a Blower Door test and an evaluation of your insulation on what to upgrade and how. Upping attic insulation to R 60-70 now will help alot. I got a free blower door test with my new furnace free so shop, but remember every price is higher this time of year. A dirty furnace, debris in chimney, to low a chimney, the wrong cap can all reduce draw. You could with an investment be paying 4-500 a year to heat 850 sq feet, you definatly will benefit from a condensing unit. The only people who dont benefit are areas that people pay only a few hundred a year to heat, like florida . Electric will likely cost you 50-75% more per Btu, unless you have cheap Hydro power of near .05 a kwh
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Get rid of Sears. Find a good local heating contractor. Where in the NE are you? Maybe someone hee can give a recommendation.
Back draft can be cause by chimney problems, but it can be a blockage, squirrel nest. too short exiting from the roof, etc.
Sounds like you really need a qualified heating contractor to give a look. Yes, a larger blower may help the upstairs, but it may also be duct sizing, lack of return air, poor layout, etc. Since none of us can see the entire setup, we can't give accurate advice.

If you convert to electric, you may also need a new service and panel. You can easily end up spending over $4000 for that and then pay a much higher rate for heat. That $250 a month for oil can easily be $450 for electric in my area. Gas is competitive with oil right now.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Get at least 2 or 3 more HVAC companies around ASAP. I'm sure some will contradict Sears (esp. on the high efficiency furnance). By the time you've quizzed all of those vendors you'll have a much better idea of what the issues are pertaining to your specific situation and what you can and want to do about it.
Of course, if they all agree with Sears, the original advice was probably sound. However, I think that's not terribly likely to happen ;-)
--
|~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~|
| Malcolm Hoar "The more I practice, the luckier I get". |
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At least have chimney inspected to make sure it is clear. If masonary, it could be cracked or pieces could be blocking it - hope you have a CO detector.
We had a new installation about 15 years ago when plenum cracked on old unit. Installer (the lowest bidder) did a sloppy job and negelected to check draft. Upshot was having to line chimney and have house cleaned 2 more times after initial clean-up. Cost ~$1,000 to line chimney then - pobably double now.
Your heating bill sounds high and may be due in part to cost of gas in area but sounds like you need to check insullation and windows.
Frank
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First, I'd get rid of Sears, as the guy doesn't make any sense. If you have an older house in a cold climate that uses more energy, that is all the more reason to go with a high efficiency furnace. What would argue against high efficiency would be if you lived in a more temperate climate and didn't use that much energy. Then, it would take a lot longer to recover the higher upfront cost of the high efficiency furnace, possible higher repair bills do to complexity, etc.
I'd start by getting a couple more companies out to give estimates,as suggested. A company that specializes in chimney solutions might be a good choice. Ask if they have a camera with which they can inspect the chimney from the roof. If it turns out the chimney is the problem, it's possible they can install a steel liner to fix it. Though not cheap, it would be a lot less than a new furnace. You could then compare what it would cost to straighten out what's there, the remaining life, etc and compare it to a high efficiency. Given your old chimney, I'd most liekly go with a high eff if replacement is necessary, eliminating the chimney.
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Do you have a co detector, get one with digital read out and a peak Co memory. Get two one for near the furnace, if you read Zero always even on memory dont worry to much. The cost 30-40$ at any hardware store
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First thing is to call a reputable HVAC contractor. There is no reason a high efficiency furnace cannot be installed in your house. I cannot imagine why the Sears estimator told you this except that it benefits them in some way. It is possible that he was thinking about avoiding the chimney problem, since a high-efficiency furnace will exacerbate any bad flue problems with a masonry chimney. But it seems you already have a chimney problem.
The "backdraft" thing makes me think of the chimney or flue. Your existing furnace is only 17 years old? It's probably in the 80% efficency rangeI would clal the gas co and see if you can get more information on what they call "backdraft" You may need to do something about the chimney whether your replace the furnace or not. For a gas fired furnace you may be able to have a chimney liner installed at a reasonable price, especially if it is a one-story house.
--
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Larry Wasserman - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf.lonestar.org
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On Jan 29, 9:22 am, snipped-for-privacy@sdf.lNoOnSePsAtMar.org (Larry) wrote:

High efficiency furnaces don't use a chimeny, they vent through the wall, which is why they could be a good choice for him if the chimney is shot.
But it seems you already

You can get a chimney liner installed whether it's oil or gas.

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

1. Save 50% by avoiding Sears contractors. I'm not kidding.
2. A high-efficiency anything has nothing to do with the integrity of the house. It relates ONLY to the amount of heating/cooling generated by the device relative to the energy input. Obviously a high-efficiency furnace will put more heat into your house than a low-efficiency one. What your house does with the heat is a completely separate matter.
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I'll just contribute this: Ask three or four friends, neighbors or co-workers if they have a heating contractor they're happy with. For various different products, there are always horror stories about Sears and other big stores. Deal with someone else. Find one you like, and stick with them, even if they cost a little more. The money won't seem important when something breaks and the reputable people show up in 43 minutes, wipe their feet, and remember your installation because the person doing the service may have also installed it.
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You dont even know if you have a backdraft, or any issue other than a money pit to heat. The Sears guy lied about condensing units. Get a few pros to look at it. Animals do fall into uncapped chimneys, mortar does break off and fall restricting draft, easy fixes.
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Chimney cleaning & inspection, Rochester NY, 2004: $97.43.
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I think you shouldn't be under a 5 day pressure, and you should get an extension from the gas company, or from some higher authority.
You should also get more detail from their employee as to what is wrong with the furnace that you have the backdraft, or whatever they said you have. They are the ones who saw your furnace and identified a problem, and surely they have a list of possible causes, and should know the one cause that applies in your case.
If tehy can't or won't give you one cause, that is further argument for having more than 5 days, becasue you have to talk to more furnace people and identify the cause before you can start to hire someone. Tell the gas company that, in a second discussion with them if necessary.
Are they claiming that the situation generates carbon monoxide? If so, even 5 days is too much. If not, what is the reason there is such a rush?
Buy a CO detector. I like the ones that plug in and don't use batteries, and the ones that display a number, at least when there is an alarm.
If you are still losing on the 5 days, rather than decide all this so quickly, I would buy one or two space heaters. Thrift shops often have them cheap, but even new it would be worth it rather than spend thousands in a rush.
And boil water. The steam which raises the relative humidty will make it feel 3 to 5 degrees warmer. Heating a house with a gas stove or oven is unsafe, i constantly read.
Oh yeah, and wear a lot of clothes. Two sweaters, and more if necessary. The cold will be over in April, or maybe even ealier. I'm sure my parents and grandparents spent many cold days and nights in the places they lived.
More inline.
On 28 Jan 2007 20:15:51 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Is being unlined in itself a problem? It seems to me it could only be if anythingt the cause of a problem, so what is the problem, and how could one fix it? People have lived in this place for many years with this setup and no one is dead or sick. What is the problem?

Fair enough, but it sounds like the guy selling the Kenmore isn't going to increase efficiency or install a substitute pipe for the chimney, so what is he going to do to fix your problem? If he is going to fix the chimney (which you only guesssed is the problem) he or someone else can fix the chimney wihtout replacing the furnace.
REmemnber it is you who came up with the idea to replace the furnace, and that was only to get high efficiency.
I can't imagine why an old house can't use a high efficiency furnace -- heat is heat -- but I really know almost nothing about this. But it should be an easy quetsion to get answered.
You have so many questions going on at the same time it would be easy to forgetr the immediate goal, which is to pass gas company standards. BTW what are their standards. How will you know when you have satisified them? They're going to want to come out and check if you have? What do they say needs to be done, or what reading, what measurement needs to be corrected, for them to say you have passed?,

Getting to the ducts is another issue, to solve another problem. This guy was a *chimney contractor* and he didn't think so? Strange. Maybe he just didn't want to do the job for some reason.
First you determine the solution to your progblem and then you uncover what is related. I have ducts showing in the laundry room in the basement, but the rest of my house everything is covered up like in yours.

That is nice, until something breaks. Maybe nothing else will break.

I've never heard of that but you could contact a manufacturer of such furnaces, if people here or elsewhere can't give a firm answser. They are a lot less likely to lie than a contractor who wants to instlal a furnace. He doesn't have to be lying for that matter. For a decade or more I insisted tube tvs and radios were better than transiisort, and they do have advantages, but the advantages of transistors are usually much greater but I didnt' want to admit it to myself.
Most people who seem to be lying (not counting salesmen, spammers and a bunch of others:) ) probably actually believe what they are saying, no matter how ridiculous it is.

As I said, why do they have to replace your furnace to solve this?

The fan spins fast and blows air pretty hard. Is your fan not doing that? Was an undersized fan installed in the first place? I sort of doubt it. And they don't normally get weaker. Maybe there is an obstruction? (don't know if that happens) or a leak in the ducts. The lastter would only be fixed if they go fix it. Repairing the chimney or replacing the furnace won't fix a leak in the ducts. The motor doesn't usually slow down but is the squirrel cage blade or other fan blade loose on the shaft, or is the belt loose on a pully (if it uses a pully). Those things can be fixed separately.

I don't know if they are usually caused by combustion problems, and do you mean for example the chimney (which should be e.g. and not i.e.**) or do you mean the only cause of combustion problems is the chimney (which is what i.e. implies)? The latter is not true. There are other causes. But we're not looking for the cause of combustion problmes, we're looking for the cause of backdrafts, and that might be caused by a chimney
**Lately more people seem to get this wrong than get it right, but it will always be wrong to reverse them. i.e. stands for id est which literally means "it is", or "that is". e.g. stands for exemplum gratia which literally means "for the sake of example". People who don't know Latin and can't remember this ;) should just use English instead of fancy foreign phrases. :)

I see your question andd I don't know. But it was your idea to get a new furnace. The gas company only said to correct a backdraft.

LIke I say, I would use portagble electric heaters, where you only have to heat the room that you are in. Also electric blankets are incredibly cost efficent for 8 hours every day, the coldest 8 hours (although once the house is cold at night it won't warm up in the daytime much by itself.) I can only set mine on 2, out of 10. And even then, it clicks on and off. If I go to any higher number, I'm miserably hot. It's harder to get out of bed in the morning when the house is colder than the bed, but I suck it up.
If you don't acquire some stories about how cold it was when you were young, what will you tell children and otehrs when you are old?
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