Is it worth upgrading to High Efficiency furnace?

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My house (and furnace) is now 1.5 years old. Brand new construction 1.5 years ago. Since it is our first house we didn't think about things like putting in a different furnace. We picked the colors, cabinets, hardwood, countertops, and just let the builder put in all their default models for things like doors, windows, furnace, etc.
I assume i have what people call a Natural Gas Mid Efficiency furnace. Since all the high efficiency ones advertize multiple fan speeds (which mine doesn't have) i would assume mine isn't one of those.
First some questions:
Are the energy savings from HE furnaces in the electircy needed to run the fan? Or the efficiency of burning the gas (ie uses less gas to make same amount of heat)? Or something else? And what is the purpose of multiple fan speeds? Is this so you can leave the fan on a low setting constantly to keep air circulation happening? Other than allowing the air filter to be constantly working, what is the purpose of this?
Would it be worthwhile to replace mine with high efficiency even though it (and the building) is so new. two story, 1700 square feet townhouse. On the main floor only two walls are exposed to the outside. The other two walls are shared with neighbouring townhouses. Our entire 2nd story is exposed though since neither neighbour has a 2nd floor.
We are pretty energy conscious so i bet the furnace is already running less than the average household. I'd hate to spend $3000 (Canadian) on a furnace and find out i save only $100 a year in gas/electiricty.
Are there any theoretical numbers? A TV commercial says "It will save the average household X dollars a month" but with no indication of what "average" is. Maybe someone has a study where a mid efficiency furnace runs for X hours a day to heat the house, and a HE furnace would only run for Y hours. I could use that ratio to estimate something.
Any thoughs appreciated.
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First of all, don't listen to TV adds directly. To know what you may save will be a complex issue. There are many factors such as the actual required BTU's, how the heat will be distributed, the type of air flow effect, the heat loss in the home, and other things I can not even think of at this time.
There is also the ratio of the cost of the amount of energy difference between the two systems to give you the BTU's you require in the first place, and the system efficiency. When you sit down and scientifically work in all the factors, since your home is not a thermo precision environment, you may find that the results can be different than what you speculated in the first place.
It would take someone with a lot of experience and knowledge to really work this out for you. If you call in one of those salesmen from these companies, all he will see is his commission for selling you a system. He will then come up with all kinds of charts, figures, and examples to justify what he is going to sell you.
For an example, you can look at what your neighbours are doing since the climate of the area is the same, and their house construction must be similar. You can enquire to them about their heating costs, and type of heating system that they have. You have to factor in, if they are leaving the doors, or windows opened more often, and or leaving the garage opened longer. These things will show a difference on the average. There is even the factor of how the wind blows on the building, how much sun light they are receiving, and even the colour of the outside walls and roof in some cases. Darker colours will tend to heat up more when the sun is shining. This will contribute to a slight amount of less heat loss, even though the house is insulated. In the summer, a dark coloured exterior may infact increase the air conditioning costs.
If you look at the cost difference that you may save, over the lifespan of the heating system you choose to change to, and the maintenance required, you may find that there may be very little recovery or non at all, that makes it worth the time and effort.
If you do not have central air conditioning, you may want to consider a heat pump. this would cost about the same or a bit more than changing a furnace. With temperatures that are not colder than about -15 Cells (depending on the type), the heat pump will act as a heater, and will air condition in the summer. These are more efficient than most other systems. If you have a central system that uses forced air, there will be no need for extra duct work. You may recover some of the cost, but there are other conveniences with this type of system.
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Jerry Greenberg GLG Technologies GLG
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Even if you saved 30% (highly optomistic) it would probably never pay for itself. Besides, in 10 years when your current furnace may need to be replaced, there will be even more efficient furnaces on the market at lower prices.

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In line...

It probably a multi speed blower, even if it is a builder's grade furnace. US Energy code says the lowest efficiency furncae out there is 78%. I haven't seen a 78 in a few years as most are 80%.

Some is in the blower efficiency, but not all. Mostly it has to do with the efficiency of the burning gas.

the fan on a

Furnaces are set up for a specific temprature rise. The multiple speeds are for setting this 'Delta T.' Some of the equiptment has a setting for continous circulation for better air filtration, but probably not yours.

If you asked me this question while I was at your house, I'd stifle a grin and say a resounding "NO!" You'll never make the return on your investment, in my opinion.

Good for you.

Don't beleive everything you hear. I'd like to think those commercials are for the people that have furnaces a lot older than yours.

You're welcome.
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As I agree with most of your posting, did you see he lives in Canada?
The difference in the higher efficiency furnace may pay off.
-- kjpro _-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>_-~-_>
( kjpro @ starband . net ) remove spaces to e-mail
Want it done yesterday? Or done right today, to save money tomorrow!!
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Yes all of us Canadians live in -60C temps 10 months of the year.
Reality - there isn't that much difference between northern US and Southern Canada. It's unlikely that the higher efficiency will pay off. I've done the numbers several times in the past and even the higher gas prices today won't make a difference.
Mike
PS - lots of heat pumps up here.
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Michael Daly wrote:

Hi, Here in Alberta, if NG price goes over 5.50 per Giga Joule, government makes up after that in the form of direct rebate. It is ~7.50 now. I still pay only 5.50. Isn't it nice?!
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And just exactly where do the government come up with the extra $2.00 per Giga Joule?
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Is 'tired old cliche' one?





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Steve Scott wrote:

Probably from the U.S. Canada and the U.S. have a Columbia River treaty and several other agreements about operation of the large reservoirs on the upper Columbia River in B.C. These reservoirs and their operaton provide benefits to the U.S. hydropower generation. The agreements are fairly complex but including paying Canada for the storage benefits to U.S. power generation at Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph, and other dams/powerplants in the U.S. When the reservoir and powerplants were first constructed, Canada wanted flood control but didn't need all of the power, so excess generation was sold to the U.S. as part of agreements.
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BC gets the benefits and this subsidizes Albertans? You don't know much about Canadian politics! :-)
More likely, the Albertan subsidies come from oil sales.
Mike
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In BC, electricity is now cheaper than gas for heating, especially if you zone heat.
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Michael Daly wrote:

Nope, I don't. The treaty is with Canada not BC and not Alberta. How Canada divies up the money is unlikely to be in the treaty.
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Well if it goes to the feds, it definitely won't benefit the Alberta residents in anything that resembles a gas rebate.
Mike
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@twcny.rr.com says...

Alberta has a mainly resource-based economy, so when gas prices go up, so do the royalties earned by the government from oil and gas companies.
Of course, there's always the provincial income tax...
Regards,
George Wenzel
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OK but what about the difference between a new oil furnace and a new natural gas furnace? I was all set to go with a new high efficiency natural gas furnace when I started talking to the local heating guys who mentioned that the delivery cost of natural gas keeps rising and that they think a new oil furnace would cost less in the long run. Any ideas or comments?
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Years ago they told everyone to switch to gas, since oil costs keep rising. It's a cyclical thing - we used to heat with coal, coal oil, oil, now gas. Every one has its day and advances in technology, changes in relative cost etc will keep us changing heating methods every so often. If fusion technology actually happens (1st fusion plant is scheduled to be build "soon") we may end up switching to electric ground-source heat pumps.
What you want to do is go with the most efficient "system", not furnace. A high efficiency furnace in a leaky, uninsulated house is not as good as a low-efficiency heater in a well-insulated house. Some passive solar houses use wood heat for a backup and wood heat is not very efficient - it nonetheless creates a cost-effective solution.
If you have an _old_ inefficient furnace, replace it. Otherwise, fix up the house so that the entire _system_ is efficient.
Mike
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On Tue, 06 Jan 2004 17:55:49 GMT, "Michael Daly"

Thanks to everyone for the responses. I have friends who have bought old houses and need to replace their 20-25year old furnaces. They're buying high efficiency ones. While it is a good idea for them, i kind of figured it wouldn't be for me.

Done. We like it cold at night. Especially since the wife is a heater herself.

Done.
Yep.
Bingo. How do i do this? I noticed when i messing with a phone outlet on one wall. It's a wall that is perpendicular to an outside wall (one of the walls my townhouse shares with the neighbour). The outlet is 8 feet in from the outside wall. When i took off the coverplate i could feel a slight cold air breeze. Is this somehow pluggable right around the outlet or do i have to track down the hole in the vapor barrier on the outside wall?
Just FYI, this 'party wall' between townhouses is made of my paint, drywall, studs&insulation, 3 layers of drywall, thier studs&insulation, drywall and their paint. So i don't think there's leakage between houses.

Funny. A month after moving in we went to a homeshow where we found out about about all these things for the first time. If only we'd done this before so that we could have paid to have these upgrades done at build time since they would have been relativly cheep at that time instead of expensive upgrades now. Things like HE furnaces, whole house ventilation with heat-recover, better windows, extra insulation in the walls, etc.

Gas. I thought about buying the $20 water tank insulating blankets at home depot.

Blown cellulose stuff. R42 (or 32, can't remember). But one can always add more.

Down to floor.

I've seen a few websites and read many usnet postings. So far all the 'little things' i've found to do are pretty much the ones you mentioned. Is there another good source of things like the above that one can do?
The plan is to, sometime in the future, build a strawbale (or other highly efficient) house more out in the country with wind and solar generators. Possibly even go so far as to put in water reclamation facilites and whatnot. We'd love to be completly, or at least mostly, off the grid.
Thanks again.
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The biggest problem is getting to the leak if the whole whose is finished. An unfinished basement gets you to the place where many of the external connections (plumbing - like outside water tap, electrical, phone/cable etc), so you can close those. If you have a suspended ceiling try removing some panels near the outside walls and see how it looks.

You can get an airtight box and seal the cover for any electical outlet. Not as good as getting to the source of the leak, but adequate otherwise. Check the front and back walls for any obvious leaks - the external phone connector (sometimes a box) could be open. Don't plug a weeping hole in the brick though.
Holes are often made for external air conditioning line, phone/cable electrical service etc. Find and seal them from the outside if you can't get to the vapour barrier inside.

Ahhh... 20/20 hindsight - just think what your _next_ house will be like :-)

Keep looking - I can't think of any single source. Perhaps someone else can.

You and me both - I'm close to doing this, it all depends on finding a job in a place where I can afford the land. T.O. is toooo $$$$$.
Mike
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SNIP - Just FYI, this 'party wall' between townhouses is made of my paint, drywall, studs&insulation, 3 layers of drywall, thier studs&insulation, drywall and their paint. So i don't think there's leakage between houses. -
There could be a great deal of leakage in this wall. If there are any pipe chases, electrical runs, duct runs or other penetrations that go from the basement to the attic, the wall structure will act as a chimney pumping heat from the house to the attic. Have a contractor with a blower door come in a test your house. He can tell you how much your house leaks and where the serious leaks are.
TAB Dude
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