Carney Plumbing Heating & Cooling Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Furnaces’

Problems That can Lead to Furnace Replacement

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Furnaces can last a fair few years, provided you take proper care of them. That means scheduling preventive maintenance at least once a year, but it also means calling for repairs as soon as you suspect that something is wrong with the system. Even seemingly minor issues can actually cause serious damage in some cases, so it’s never a good idea to ignore a problem once it presents itself. Let’s take a look at some of the more dire furnace issues, and how to identify them.

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What Is a Gravity Furnace?

Monday, January 9th, 2012

A long time ago, gravity furnaces were a very popular means of heating a home. Instead of pressurizing and blowing air through vents to each room of your Buckingham home, a gravity furnace used gravity to move warm air between rooms.

The operation of these furnaces is pretty simple. When turned on, the furnace, which is located in your basement, burns fuel like gas or oil and produces heat. That heat is vented through ductwork to the top level of your home using the natural properties of gravity (hot air rises). The hot air exits vents as it travels up in the home and releases heat into the room.

Why to Replace a Gravity Furnace

While gravity furnaces can work nearly forever and have very few mechanical problems, they are incredibly expensive to operate and take up a lot of space. Due to the sheer volume of ducts needed to distribute air throughout your home and the cost of heating enough air to ensure it rises properly, you’re dealing with a heating efficiency of 50% or lower.

In fact, about half the energy you consume to heat air in a gravity furnace gets pumped straight out through the chimney. It’s a complete waste of money and a replacement will start saving you money almost immediately.

Newer furnaces have efficiency ratings of up to 95% which makes them nearly twice as efficient as gravity furnaces. Additionally, they take up less space and with modern components, you can install newer devices like zone controls, electronic readout and display and more. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy steady, reliable heat in your home without having to invest a fortune in the fuel needed to operate it.

Comfort Matters

Another thing to consider is the comfort level of your home. Because gravity furnaces release warm air through the middle of the house and cold air comes back down along the walls, homes that have them are rarely comfortable except in the middle of the house. Forced air furnaces with blower fans are much more efficient at distributing heated air and matching the thermostat settings you select.

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Signs of an Undersized Furnace

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

If you’re purchasing a new furnace for your Buckingham home, you want to avoid buying one that is undersized for your particular space. To do that, here are some common signs that the furnace isn’t powerful enough for the heating needs of your home. These signs might appear for an older furnace as well, especially as it ages and loses its ability to provide adequate heat for your home.

Maintaining Temperature

The most common (and in many cases only) sign that your furnace is undersized is that the device simply doesn’t maintain the temperature in your home properly. This means that when turned on to full and left for a few hours, your furnace doesn’t heat your home to the thermostat setting.

This can be due to an improper load calculation or a load calculation that wasn’t taken at all. The perfectly sized furnace will heat your home evenly on the coldest day your area is likely to have. So, undersizing should be pretty evident – if it doesn’t heat your home evenly and it’s not exceptionally cold outside, you might not have enough BTUs under the hood.

How to Fix the Problem

The problem is one that varies depending on the severity of the undersizing. Modern furnaces are often available with two stages, meaning they can operate at both a low BTU rating (often around 40K or so) and a higher BTU rating (70K or higher). This is the perfect solution for homeowners worried about undersizing because it ensures that your home always has enough heat in reserve should the weather get exceptionally cold.

For example, most furnaces are sized for extremely low temperatures, but if the temperature jumps up to 50 degrees F outside, your furnace is now oversized for that weather. A two stage furnace offers solutions for both common conditions and extreme conditions and will resolve most of the concern you have about undersizing and not having enough heat to offset outdoor temperatures.

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What Makes a Furnace High Efficiency?

Monday, December 19th, 2011

You’ve probably heard about the new lines of high efficiency furnaces being released by popular home heating companies, but what exactly is different about these high efficiency devices from your Chalfont home’s current furnace? Let’s take a closer look at what a high efficiency furnace offers and why it can save you money.

Added Features

A high efficiency furnace uses familiar technology in a new way to reduce the amount of energy lost when combustion takes place. This means:

  • Sealed Combustion – Instead of open combustion which allows heat to escape during and after the combustion process, a high efficiency furnace uses a sealed chamber with carefully measured and fed airflow to burn fuel and produce heat. Exhaust heat can then be recaptured and used to heat air transferred to your air vents.
  • Two Stage Gas Valves – With a two stage gas valve, your furnace can respond to the temperature outside. There isn’t just one “on” switch. The furnace will regulate gas flow based on how much energy is needed to produce heat for your home. So, if there is a sudden burst of cold outside, the furnace will respond accordingly, but for most days when heating needs are low, it will use only the minimum amount of needed gas.
  • Programmable – High efficiency furnaces are now programmable, meaning you can set specific time limits for operation, change thermostat settings digitally and inspect the device through an electronic read out. The level of control given to you by a programmable high efficiency furnace can greatly reduce gas or electricity consumption.

Cost Benefit

The real reason many people are interested in high efficiency furnaces is that they are so much less expensive to operate. Instead of costing hundreds of dollars to run through the winter, they operate the bare minimum needed to heat your home. Using up to 95% of the fuel they consume to produce heat and regulating gas to cut how much is consumed during milder days, these furnaces are built to save you money.

If you have an old furnace that chews through energy like nobody’s business, now might be the time to consider the benefits of a brand new, high efficiency model.

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A Tip from a HVAC Contractor: How Warm is Furnace Heated Air?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

When your furnace turns on every day and warms your Warrington home, just how hot is the air being blown through your vents? It’s a common question and while it varies depending on the type of furnace you have and the length of your ductwork, normally, the air is about the same temperature in most homes.

The Heating Process

When you turn on your furnace, it ignites fuel (gas or oil) or heats elements (electricity). A blower fan blows air through the heat exchanger and then into ductwork that distributes the heated air to vents around your home. When the combustion occurs and air is first heated, the temperature is between 140 degrees F and 170 degrees F.

This is extremely warm and could be dangerous to anyone if they got too close to it or it was blown directly into your home. However, as the heated air is distributed into your home it starts to cool. In some cases, it loses a significant amount of its energy in the ductwork.

This is intended, of course, because the temperature would be much too high if it was distributed directly to your rooms. That’s why high velocity ductwork often requires regulation to avoid overheating of the air. Cooling like this is normal and results in a better, more evenly distributed airflow.

When Something’s Wrong

To know something is wrong with your heating system, you must first understand what temperature air normally is when distributed through the vents. This will vary depending on which room you are in and how big your home (and furnace) are. However, if you notice a sharp drop off in comfort level in your home, it takes longer to heat rooms when cold or if that heating is suddenly uneven, it may be time for someone to inspect your furnace and check for potential problems.

A technician will then check to see if the air is being heated to the target 140-170 degrees F or if heat is being lost in the air handler or ductwork. There are a number of issues that can contribute to lost heat in your heating system – the easiest way to be sure the problem is solved properly is to call a Warrington heating contractor when you notice the problem.

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Is Your Furnace Making too Much Noise?

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

The old saying that “It is better to be seen than heard” certainly applies to the mechanical equipment in your Ambler home. If you hear a squeaky noise or loud clattering you automatically suspect that something is wrong. And if that noise is coming from your furnace, you better pay attention to it. A noise is an obvious sign of a problem – minor or major – and it could result in mechanical failure that could leave your home cold and uncomfortable – and affect your home’s indoor air quality.

Today’s newer variable-speed furnaces keep a constant airflow through the ventilation system utilizing a low speed fan that consumes small amounts of electricity. Constant airflow brings in fresh air and keeps the room air from becoming stale or stagnant. Because of this constant operation, it is important to ensure the furnace is running at peak efficiency, which also means that it is running quietly.

Here are some common noises, possible reasons, and suggested repairs. As always, if you are in doubt about how to repair your furnace, call a local qualified heating contractor and schedule a service call.

  • Squealing noise – could be a worn out or slipping blower belt. Check for proper tension of the belt or replace the belt if it is worn out or cracked.
  • Squealing noise – could be worn out motor shaft bearings. Lubricate the blower motor at the proper points.
  • Rumbling noise – often caused by a poorly adjusted pilot light when the burners are turned off. Adjust the pilot as necessary.
  • Rumbling noise – often caused by dirty gas burners when the burners are switched on. This problem requires service from a qualified heating technician.
  • Buzzing noise – often caused when a blower motor mounting come loose. Tighten the mounting screws or use shims to fill gaps.
  • Hissing noise – indicates a possible air leak. This problem requires service from a qualified heating technician.
  • Ticking noise – possibly a leaky gas valve. This problem requires service from a qualified heating technician.
  • Rattling noise – could be a dirty fan blade. Wipe the fan blade or clean with degreaser.
  • Rattling, grinding, or whining – could be resistance to airflow that causes the motor to work harder. Check the vents in each room for dirt, debris, or obstructions and clear them.
  • Vibrating noise – may not be the furnace but loose or cracked seams in the ventilation system. Check the ductwork seams and hangers to ensure everything is tight. You may need duct tape or bracket hardware.

The best way to keep your furnace and ventilation system from making noises is to practice preventative maintenance. Have your furnace checked annually by a qualified heating contractor – and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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What Is a Downflow vs. an Upflow Furnace?

Monday, October 17th, 2011

When you go looking to buy a furnace in Yardley, you may well be surprised by how many different elements go into making a good purchasing decision. There are simply so many different kinds of furnaces available now and they each are more appropriate for certain situations. That means that finding the one that’s right for you is less about finding the one best unit than it is about finding the one that is the best match for your particular circumstances.

This applies to the type of fuel the furnace uses, its energy efficiency, and whether it’s an upflow furnace or a downflow furnace. Energy efficiency and fuel types are probably things that you’re more or less familiar with. But what are we talking about when we classify a furnace as an upflow or downflow model?

Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like. These terms refer to the direction the air flows as it is taken in and heated by the furnace. So in an upflow furnace, the cool air is taken in at the bottom, warmed, and then expelled at the top. A downflow furnace, on the other hand, takes in cool air at the top and expels heated air at the bottom.

While this is all very exciting, it may still not be obvious what impact this will have on your decision about what type of furnace to buy. The main thing you’ll have to think about when you’re deciding between an upflow and a downflow furnace is where the furnace will be placed in your house.

An upflow furnace is generally installed in the basement so that the heated air is directed towards the parts of the house you want cooled and so that the furnace can be appropriately vented outside of the house. On the other hand, a downflow furnace would be installed in your attic for the same reasons.

So where you want to have the furnace installed is probably the biggest thing to take into account as you’re comparing these two types of equipment. Of course, whether you pick an upflow or a downflow furnace, you’ll still have to select the appropriate AFUE, size and fuel source to best meet your needs. But making the choice between upflow and downflow can at least make it easier to narrow down your options. If you need help choosing the best furnace for your home, contact your local contractor.

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