In the past, the efficiency of a home’s heating system wasn’t considered much. The most popular Boston home heating systems were (and still are) powered by natural gas or electricity. Steam or hot-water heat systems, fuel-oil systems and natural gas forced air are commonly found in Boston-area homes. Within the last couple of decades, however, replacement furnaces and those used in new construction are likely to have been labeled “mid-efficiency” or “high-efficiency” furnaces. These designations refer to the ability of the furnace to convert fuel into heat. Some modern high-efficiency furnaces can convert as much as 95% of the fuel they use into heat.
High efficiency furnaces will reduce the amount of money you spend on heating your Boston-area home, but this high efficiency doesn’t come without cost. Typically, a high efficiency furnace may cost between $1,500 and $3,500 depending upon a number of factors. If you’re accustomed to an old furnace, the high efficiency model may come with a few surprises. Older gas furnaces draw air from inside the home back into the furnace to be heated and forced back into the living space. The products of combustion (including a lot of relatively wet air) were sent up the home’s chimney.
For newer furnaces, the addition of a fresh air intake and an exhaust line may be somewhat new. In many installations, the products of combustion are no longer routed up the chimney, but instead exit the house through a PVC line about 3″ in diameter.
The furnace relies on both fresh air intake and its exhaust port to work efficiently and safely. Should either of these lines become clogged with debris, the furnace will shut down. Debris can come in a variety of forms: trash, leaves and similar organic buildup can clog these lines. More likely in the winter, however, snow, ice and frost will plug these pipes, reducing the efficiency of the furnace or shutting it down altogether.
These intake and exhaust pipes should be placed on a side of the home that is sheltered from the wind. This will help reduce the amount of debris, snow and ice that may accumulate as the result of air movement around the home. Likewise, the intake and exhaust pipes should be separated from each other by at least 12 inches, and no objects should come within 20 inches of the pipe’s opening. This will help ensure that airflow into the intake the pipe will not be reduced and exhaust will not be reflected back toward either the intake or exhaust pipes.
Boston Standard Plumbing can assist you in maintaining your high-efficiency furnace throughout the heating season. Contact us today for more information about how to care for your high-efficiency furnace or to diagnose and resolve heating problems.