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
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
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
Opinions or advice?
On Jan 28, 10:15 pm, email@example.com wrote:
I am puzzled by the comment on high efficiency furnace in an old
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
I am surprised that the inspector didnt give you more detail on the
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
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..
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
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.
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". |
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
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 ~$1,000 to line chimney then - pobably double now.
Your heating bill sounds high and may be due in part to cost of gas in
area but sounds like you need to check insullation and windows.
First, I'd get rid of Sears, as the guy doesn't make any sense. If
you have an older house in a cold climate that uses more energy, that
is all the more reason to go with a high efficiency furnace. What
would argue against high efficiency would be if you lived in a more
temperate climate and didn't use that much energy. Then, it would
take a lot longer to recover the higher upfront cost of the high
efficiency furnace, possible higher repair bills do to complexity,
I'd start by getting a couple more companies out to give estimates,as
suggested. A company that specializes in chimney solutions might be
a good choice. Ask if they have a camera with which they can inspect
the chimney from the roof. If it turns out the chimney is the
problem, it's possible they can install a steel liner to fix it.
Though not cheap, it would be a lot less than a new furnace. You
could then compare what it would cost to straighten out what's there,
the remaining life, etc and compare it to a high efficiency. Given
your old chimney, I'd most liekly go with a high eff if replacement is
necessary, eliminating the chimney.
Do you have a co detector, get one with digital read out and a peak Co
memory. Get two one for near the furnace, if you read Zero always even
on memory dont worry to much. The cost 30-40$ at any hardware store
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.
Better to be stuck up in a tree than tied to one.
Larry Wasserman - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf.lonestar.org
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
On 28 Jan 2007 20:15:51 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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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