We don’t need to tell you that a good furnace simply isn’t optional in Calgary. With temperatures regularly dipping below -20, your furnace is possibly the most important appliance in your home. Unfortunately, keeping cozy warm in Canada isn’t cheap. Over the last while, we’ve tried to drop some hints on how to squeeze as much efficiency out of your current furnace as possible — be sure to change the filter on time and invest in a programmable thermostat — so you’re not paying for heat when you aren’t home. But sometimes the reason your utility bill is so high is simply that your furnace is old, inefficient, and needs to be replaced. So how to choose a new furnace?
Here in SE Calgary, our beautiful neighbourhoods are largely filled with fair-sized to big homes. While it’s luxurious to enjoy all the extra space, these big houses can exaggerate any weakness in an older furnace. By most estimates, upgrading to the newest, high-efficiency furnaces can reduce a home’s gas bill by 35-45%.
This is particularly true when replacing a furnace that’s already 15 or 20 years old (or more!). Today’s high efficiency furnaces commonly boast a 95% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. If you invest in one of the very best, high efficiency furnaces, you can even find up to 98.5% AFUE. That means that 98.5% of the gas that the furnace consumes goes directly into generating heat, with less than 2% of the energy wasted. In comparison, an excellent furnace from 15 years ago only offered about 80% efficiency. Any older than 15 years, and your furnace may only have 56% to 70% AFUE.
Think about that. If your old furnace only provides 56% efficiency, and you upgrade to a furnace with a 98.5% AFUE. You can nearly halve your gas bill. As carbon taxes come into effect increasing the price of gas and oil, those savings are going to be even more important. On top of leaving money in your pocket, a high efficiency furnace is an investment in clean air for future Albertans. Upgrading your furnace from 56% to even just 90% efficiency can save between 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year (gas heated) and 2.5 tons (oil heated).
The average life expectancy of a furnace is 16-20 years. But if your utility bill is too high now, it can be worth looking up your furnace’s current efficiency to decide whether replacing it early makes more sense. In the meantime, have a happy new year and take a close look at your weather stripping. If your doors or windows are leaking warm air, you’re letting money escape into the blizzarding icy night!