Is your home heating ready for cold, sub-zero temperatures?
Start here if you are looking to replace your furnace, believe you need heating equipment repair or maintenance, want to understand how different heating systems work, would like to save energy (and money) this winter, or have any unanswered furnace questions.
This furnace buying guide provides the answers you need to make confident buying decisions and enjoy comfortable, reliable warm air for years to come.
Is It Time To Replace My Furnace?
If you are reading this furnace guide, chances are you have an old furnace that wastes energy, and you might be wondering if it is time to repair vs. replace your furnace. Here are a few clues that will help you decide if a new furnace is needed:
- Your furnace is more than 15 years old
- Your furnace needs frequent repairs
- Your utility bills have risen to unreasonable rates
- An important part has failed (for example, the ignition control module)
- Your home requires more heat than your furnace can produce
- Your furnace makes loud noises
There are many reasons furnace replacement is needed, so don’t hesitate to get an expert opinion. Consult with an Ottawa furnace installation expert to learn more about the options available for your unique situation.
How Do Furnaces Work?
Natural gas furnaces, oil furnaces, and propane furnaces all utilize fuel to operate. The type of furnace you use highly depends on the fuel source available to you.
Many Canadian homeowners have a gas furnace but don’t understand how it works. So here’s how this familiar appliance functions:
- A thermostat sends a message to the furnace when heat is needed.
- A control board inside the furnace activates key components, including a draft fan and a gas control valve.
- An ignitor (or pilot light) lights gas-fueled burners inside a combustion chamber.
- The heat from the combustion rises into a heat exchanger.
- Air is warmed as it passes over hot metal coils.
- A blower moves the warm air into ducts that distribute the heat to your home.
- A vent system expels toxic combustion by-products through a flue pipe.
- When the desired temperature is reached, the thermostat directs the furnace to close the gas valve, shutting off the appliance.
- The process starts again when the temperature drops too low (or someone turns up the thermostat).
Electric furnaces are also an option. Instead of a combustion chamber, electric models have a compartment containing electric coils that become hot and warm the air. It’s important to note that while it may cost less to purchase an electric furnace, monthly utility bills are often higher due to electrical consumption, unless used in combination with a heat pump.
Some furnaces feature an additional accessory called a furnace humidifier. This extension connects directly to the heating system and combats the dry heat created by the furnace. As the air leaves the furnace, it flows past a humidifier and picks up moisture before being distributed through your home.
Are There Other Heating Options?
If you are looking for a new heating system, there are alternatives to using a furnace. Great options include:
Heat Pumps: Heat pumps are unique for many reasons. First, they serve two purposes—a heat pump is a home heating and cooling system. Second, they don’t create heat but rather move it around. How? Most absorb heat energy from outside air (even cold Canadian air) and transfer it to the air inside your home. During the summertime, they function as air conditioners.
A heat recovery ventilator can be added to enhance a heat pump and improve air quality. It’s an air exchanger that recovers heat from existing indoor air and transfers it to incoming fresh air.
Boilers: Rather than heating and blowing air throughout your home, a boiler uses a fuel source, like natural gas, to heat a liquid. It then pumps the hot liquid through a hydronic heating system, such as radiant floors or radiators. A boiler can also be used as your home’s hot water heater.
What Are the Types of Furnace Stages?
While researching a new natural gas furnace, you may have come across the terms single-stage, multi-stage and modulating. Here’s an overview of what these stages are:
Older furnaces are commonly single-stage. It is an all-or-nothing approach; the gas valve is on, or it is off. As a result, when the appliance runs, it does so at full blast, cycling on and off frequently as the temperature in your house changes.
In contrast, the gas valve inside multi-stage furnaces can open to varying degrees depending on how much heat needs to be generated. As a result, less fuel is used on milder days. Multi-stage units are also able to maintain a more constant even temperature in your home, and are considerably quieter than single-stage furnaces.
A modulating furnace adapts even more precisely to your home’s heating needs. Its burner regulates the amount of fuel burned to keep a very consistent temperature.
Are Furnaces Energy-Efficient?
Yes, a newer model is commonly a more efficient system. Older furnaces are less so.
When you are buying a new furnace, shop for ENERGY STAR-certified high-efficiency furnaces. These models will have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating above 90%. (Gas furnaces made in the 1970s typically had ratings closer to 65%!)
In Canada, this information can be found on the EnerGuide label. A higher AFUE efficiency rating equates to more energy savings. (Note: A high rating does impact furnace cost. These models may have a higher price, but they more than makeup for it by significantly lowering your energy costs and reducing your carbon footprint.)
Does Furnace Sizing Matter?
Yes, it is critical to purchase the correct size for your home before having a furnace installed. Why? Because furnaces that are too large or too small don’t function correctly. They cycle on and off frequently, wear out quicker, and require repairs often. Enlist the help of a licensed HVAC contractor who will perform calculations based on many factors (such as heat loss, home construction, insulation occupancy, and climate) to determine the optimal size furnace for your residence.
Do You Need Furnace Maintenance?
Having a qualified HVAC technician perform annual furnace maintenance is not expensive, and well worth your money. When you properly maintain your heating equipment, you will keep your furnace working at peak efficiency and avoid unexpected repair costs.
A professional will examine the system, clear debris, check for damaged parts (like sensors and gas lines), change the furnace filter, inspect the air filtration system for proper airflow, and more. Most importantly, they will answer any furnace-related questions you have.
There are also some things you can do to ensure your furnace operates safely and efficiently. First, regularly check that your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. All gas-burning appliances produce CO, and leaks can lead to serious health hazards. Next, change the air filter every month or two. They are cheap, easy to replace, and the most common fixable issue that causes service calls.
Choose A Reliable Furnace Brand
When searching for the right furnace, choose a brand dedicated to both quality and energy efficiency. You can’t go wrong with either of these brands; you’ll reduce your heating bills and stay warm and toasty all season long.
Carrier furnaces are highly reliable and energy-efficient, many of which have earned the ENERGY STAR rating with AFUE scores above 95%. The Carrier company is well established and recognized as a top furnace brand. They offer high-quality models for any size of home or budget.
Comfortmaker furnaces are highly reliable and energy-efficient, many of which have earned the ENERGY STAR rating with AFUE scores above 95%. The Comfortmaker company is well established and recognized as a top furnace brand, made by Carrier themselves. They offer high-quality models for any size of home or budget.
Lennox furnaces are also extremely well made and dependable. The Lennox company manufactures industry-leading appliances designed for any size home or price point. Dedicated to comfort and efficiency, you’ll find many models that meet ENERGY STAR requirements, with some boasting AFUE ratings in the 95-98% range.
Option to Rent?
Get the high-efficiency gas furnace you seek without the cost of purchasing equipment. Our Ottawa furnace rental program includes low monthly payments, semi-annual maintenance, penalty-free buy-out options, and more. Contact us today for a free HVAC rental consultation.
Make It Pink To Fight Cancer
Have some fun—and help a great cause—by adding a splash of colour to your furnace room! When you purchase a pink furnace from Ottawa Home Services, we’ll donate $200 to the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. (Note: As part of this campaign, the front panel of your new furnace will be pink. This covering is removable should you wish to change the look.)
Professional Installation Services from Ottawa Furnace Experts
Ottawa Home Services specializes in Ottawa area furnace installation. Our home comfort consultants will visit your residence to collect all the information needed to determine the best heating solution for your home. Then, we’ll help you make a purchase decision that perfectly meets your comfort and budget needs.