It’s the most wonderful time of the year (Check your furnace!)

Snow is falling in the mountains and chances are your furnace is already heating up your home. However, is your furnace ready for winter? We had a chat with Richard Seebacher from Seebacher Plumbing & Heating a North Shore company that specializes in heating systems, reminds us how often furnaces need to be serviced.

First of all you need to know how efficient is your furnace. Richard explains it is still very common to find low efficiency furnaces in many houses in the North Shore. These heating systems have been around for about 60 years and their distinguishing factor is that about 50% of the heat they produce will go through the house and the other 50% will end up being wasted. “Basically 50% of the money these homeowners spend on gas is literally going up a vent into the atmosphere,” Richard says. And that is not the only energy waste: old furnaces have a standing pilot to turn on the furnace. “A rough estimate from BCIT is that it costs about $10 a month for all pilot light to be lit. Most people keep the pilot light on all year round. That is $120 a year.”

Perhaps the only highlight about low efficiency furnaces is they don’t need to bechecked yearly by a technician because, as Richard puts it, they don’t have as many moving parts.

About 25 years ago, mid-efficiency furnaces came into the market. Richard explains one of the design improvements was replacing the pilot light with an auto igniter. “Another added feature was the inducer motor, which sucked air in with the gas, making it burn a little better, a little more efficient,” he adds. “With mid-efficiency furnaces 70% of the heat goes into the house and 30% into the atmosphere. But there are more moving parts and there is a higher chance for something to go wrong. This means they need to be serviced more often. The BC Safety Authority states mid efficiency furnace need to be checked yearly.”

One of the high efficiency furnaces innovations is its two pipes. One pipe takes airfrom outside, brings it into the unit for combustion. The other pipe goes directly outside to exhaust burnt fumes. This brought furnace efficiency to about 95-97%. Also, the two pipes allow condensation bringing the furnace temperature to 200°F, instead of 350°F, which is the usual temperature of the mid and low-efficiency furnaces. “Its design reduces the cycling of cold air from outside to a minimum and because it robs so much heat out of the gasses, the new high condensing furnaces are not nearly as hot as the old types. People might notice their gas bills dropping to less than half when they change their old furnace to a new high efficiency one.”

As for the frequency of servicing high efficiency furnaces, Richard believes it should be done yearly. “There are little pieces called vacuum switches that need to be checked annually, because they control the amount of air that mixes with the gas, and if the wrong amount of air is mixing with the gas, it can destroy a new furnace in a couple of years.”

No matter the efficiency of the furnace, it’s a must to change the filters frequently. “The disposable fiberglass type that look like cotton fluff are the worst kind, even if they are cheap. These only stop big particles, they don’t stop dust from going through the house,” Richard explains and adds, “if you are going to be cheap with your filters, change them every month. If you are not going to be cheap, then change them every three months. The best filters are the disposable pleated kind, which are folded and, when stretched out, have a lot of surface area. They filter all the dust and other particles, but keep the same amount of airflow going through, and your house is cleaner.”

Richard also emphasizes the importance of making sure your technician is qualifiedand has a gasfitter. “If the technician doesn’t check everything properly, the family may suffer some symptoms which suggests carbon monoxide poisoning which could lead to serious health risks and even death.” To contact Richard Seebacher click here.

Is your house ready for winter? Here’s a checklist:
  • Turn off water to exterior taps to prevent frozen pipes
  • Keep some rock salt in the garage for driveways and pathways
  • Change your furnace filter
  • Replace burnt out exterior lights
  • Replace worn door and window weather stripping
  • Clean gutters
  • Replace batteries in flash lights
  • Clean chimney flue
  • Clean clothes dryer hoses
  • Keep mats at doorways to protect flooring