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When Should I Turn My Furnace On?

Weather in the greater Toronto area is often unpredictable as the seasons change.

When the temperature goes up and down like a yo-yo, you do your best to keep your home as comfortable as possible.

Mother Nature presents you with an interesting problem to solve: when should you turn up the heat, and when should you turn it off?

You Should Turn Your Furnace on When It’s Less Than 18°C

You shouldn’t just look at the outside temperature when deciding whether you need your furnace or not – you should look at the temperature inside your home.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the ideal indoor temperature range for winter is 18°C – 21°C. It is recommended that homes with children or elderly residents stick closer to 21°C for optimal health and comfort.

Of course, the outside weather does have an effect on how warm (or cold) you feel inside. Based on historical weather data for Brampton, it’s normal to need your furnace at the end of September/early October.

If you’re a home of healthy adults you can go a little lower to save money on your heating bills. Many Canadians set their thermostat as low as 16°C at night!

But if your home’s indoor temperature is lower than 10°C, you begin to run the risk of frozen pipes, so don’t set your furnace too low.

Maximize Your Savings by Programming Different Settings on Your Thermostat

Turning on your furnace doesn’t mean setting one temperature and forgetting about it. By using a programmable thermostat and setting up a schedule for your home, you can actually save yourself some money on your next heating bill.

For example, you can set up a schedule for your weekdays and your weekends – lower the temperature for the times you’ll be out of the house or asleep, and higher for when you’re home snuggled on the couch drinking hot cocoa and watching good movies.

Depending on how actively you use your programmable thermostat all year, you could save between 10-23% on your heating and cooling costs.

Want some more tips to help you maximize your savings? We’ve got them >

Turning Your Furnace On for the First Time?

If you’re turning your furnace on for the first time, there are a few things you should do to make sure it’s ready to go.

1. Test Your Thermostat

A programmable thermostat is only effective if it’s actually working properly. The easiest way to test your thermostat is to flip your fan setting to ‘Auto’ and increase your set temperature 4-5°C above your current room temperature.

You should hear the furnace turn on, and feel warm air coming out of the vents a few minutes later.

2. Change Your Filter

This is a super easy and affordable task for homeowners. Simply make sure your furnace is off, remove the filter from the blower, and dispose of/clean it as required.

This is something you should be doing about once every 3 months at least, not just when you first turn on your furnace.

3. Book a Dr. HVAC Furnace Tune Up

A furnace should receive a comprehensive tune up once a year, preferably before you use it for the first time.

A tune up is what will give you the peace of mind that your furnace is ready for whatever winters throws at us. It’ll also increase your furnace’s efficiency: this means you won’t dread those winter heating bills as much.

Our talented technicians can perform a thorough tune up for you and walk you through the process step-by-step you’ll have complete confidence in your furnace this winter.

Find Out More About Tune Ups

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My Furnace is Leaking Water – What Do I Do?

Water leaks in your home are frustrating, time-consuming, and can cause costly damage – not to mention costly repairs.

But what do you do when it’s your furnace leaking water? It’s easy for panic to set in – especially as the temperatures get colder and colder.

Here’s what you you need to do if you find yourself in this situation.

Turn off Your Furnace and Call Dr. HVAC for Repairs

If you discover your furnace leaking water, the first thing you should do is turn it off.

Make sure your thermostat is first set to ‘Off. Then turn the shut-off valve located on the gas line connected to your furnace and  the electrical breakers associated with your furnace.

It’s likely that the problem causing the leak is something only professional repair technicians should handle, so your next step is to call us.

You can book an appointment online or call 905-457-4425.

You should then mop up all the water that has collected around the base of your furnace. Standing water is bad for your furnace and your floor. Remember: Only do this if your furnace electrical circuit is shut off.

If your furnace looks like a lonely island in the middle of a small pond, it’s possible to rent a wet/dry vacuum from big hardware stores to make cleanup easier.

Why is My Furnace Leaking Water in the First Place?

Depending on whether you have a high-efficiency furnace (an AFUE rating of 90 or more) or a conventional furnace, a number of different things will cause your furnace to leak.

1. High-Efficiency: There’s a Leak or a Clog in the Condensate Lines

High-efficiency furnaces create condensation through the heat exchange process. When operating normally, this condensation is drained safely out and away from your furnace through the condensate line and drain trap.

If there’s a leak or a clog in the condensate lines, you’ll quickly find a puddle around your furnace.

2. High-Efficiency: Your Condensate Pump Isn’t Working

A condensate pump is what actually pushes the water through the lines and away from your furnace. These can experience mechanical problems which often cause leaks.

3. Conventional: The Metal Vent Pipe is Creating Condensation

If you’re furnace has an AFUE rating of less than 90, it’ll have a metal exhaust vent pipe (vs. the white PVC vent pipe of a high-efficiency furnace). The exhaust vent carries away the gases produced during the combustion process, and releases them outside while they’re still hot.

If this venting pipe isn’t properly sized for your furnace, gasses can get trapped by the extra air. Eventually they cool down – this forms condensation which leaks out of your furnace.

4. For Any Furnace: The Humidifier is Leaking

Many homeowners choose to add a humidifier to their heating systems to make their homes more comfortable during the dry winter months.

They have water constantly moving through them, and if they spring a leak or become clogged, it looks like it’s your furnace that’s leaking water.

This is something our technicians will thoroughly inspect when diagnosing the source of the water. It’s also something we can inspect when you have your annual furnace tune up.

5. For Any Furnace: It Might Actually Be the Air Conditioner

If we’re in that seasonal grey period where you use your air conditioner one day, and turn on the heat the next, it may not be your furnace leaking water.

Air conditioners absorb a lot of moisture from the air inside your home, so they also have condensate lines and a drain pan. If there’s a clog or leak, it could appear as though your furnace is the source.

Make Sure to Replace Your Furnace Filter

As a rule your furnace filter should be changed every 90 days. But if your furnace is leaking water, you should swap out the furnace filter after the repairs are made and before you turn your furnace back on.

A wet, dirty, or clogged filter will restrict airflow, and put extra strain on your furnace. It’s best to start fresh with a new/cleaned filter.

We’ll Find the Source of the Leak and Get Your Heat Back in No Time

No matter what make or model of furnace you have, we can make the necessary repairs.

Our team of technicians are highly-trained and professional, able to diagnose the problem and have you up and running again as quickly as possible.

Learn More About Dr. HVAC’s Repair Services

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What is a Heat Pump, and How Can It Help Me Save Money?

Are you tired of spending all your money on keeping your home at the right temperature?

There is a way to keep perfectly comfortable all year long, and save some extra cash. It’s called an air source heat pump, and it’s one of the best systems a homeowner can get.

What is a Heat Pump?

An air source heat pump is a dual-purpose system that acts as a high-efficiency air conditioner in the summer, and a heater in the winter. They run on electricity, and are capable of either working with your existing ductwork or serving as a ductless system.

We know what you’re thinking: electricity is expensive.

But heat pumps are designed to be more efficient, and will lower the costs for homeowners using propane, oil, or electric furnaces.

How Do Air Source Heat Pumps Work?

The most common example of a heat pump is your refrigerator. It extracts any warm air from inside your fridge, and sends it through the pump and out through the coils at the bottom (or at the back). That’s how your favourite foods stay so nice and cool – and why you may feel a warm spot on the floor in front of your fridge.

Air source heat pumps work the same way: they pull the warmth out of your home in the summer, leaving you nice and cool.

They’re setup exactly like an air conditioner: the refrigerant is circulated through heat exchangers and a compressor. It even hooks up to your thermostat in the exact same way.

The Benefits of Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps come with a long list of benefits: most of them you’ll notice immediately.

1. They’re Environmentally-Friendly and Efficient

Air pumps have high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratios (SEER) that make them incredibly friendly to the environment. They don’t burn fossil fuels, so you’ll reduce your carbon footprint when you use them.

They’re also incredibly efficient. Air source heat pumps have a coefficient of performance (COP) of about 1.8 or higher. That means they’re 180% more efficient than standard electric resistance heaters.

Some can even have a COP of 2.4, which means they’re 240% more efficient!

This makes them great homeowners in the GTA who are on propane, oil, or electric systems.

Sounds Great for Summer – But What About Winter?

The cool part about air source heat pumps is that they can work in reverse: they’ll pull heat from the air outside, and use it to warm your home in the winter.

It’s true: heat can be pulled from the air even when it’s below 0°C.

This sounds well and good. But this is Canada: we know how cold it can get.

You can use air source heat pumps in our winters: but the lower the temperature gets, the less efficient your heat pump becomes.

It’s why we recommend to anyone getting a heat pump that they keep their furnace. “We can program your thermostat so that it will choose the system that will save you the most money,” Dr. HVAC’s owner Brendon Aldridge explains.

You’ll use your furnace a lot less (which means less $$$ on your bills), but you’ll definitely want it on those super cold Canadian winter days.

You can ask us to help you figure out how much a heat pump could save you >

2. You Get 2 Systems in One

This benefit is so great it’s worth mentioning again: you get 2 systems in one! A super-duper high efficiency air conditioner, and an excellent heater the spring and fall.

3. They Last a Long, Long Time

Heat pumps are with you for the long haul. They last between 15 – 20 years with the right care.

Air source heat pumps are also simple to install. But you need the right installation company to avoid costly mistakes and regret.

4. Maintenance for Air Source Heat Pumps is Minimal

The only thing air source heat pumps need to stay operational all year long is an annual maintenance appointment. With our premium maintenance packages, you’ll barely have to think about it.

Now Air Source Heat Pumps Are More Affordable Than Ever

We know what’s holding you back from jumping for joy over this system: the upfront costs.

Air source heat pumps only cost a little more than more conventional air conditioners. And they’re now more affordable than ever thanks to the Green Ontario Fund.

If you use oil, propane, or electric heat, you can qualify for up to $5,800 in rebates.

Dr. HVAC is a certified Green Ontario contractor, and we can walk you through the rebate application process so you get as much money back as possible. Learn more >

Please note: The Green Ontario is is now closed.

Make the Switch with Dr. HVAC Today

Are you ready to start saving real money on your energy bill? We can help you make the switch to the air source heat pump that is right for your home and your needs.

I’m Ready to Make the Switch

Does a High Efficiency Furnace Really Save You Money?

People are always looking for ways to save money, particularly during the winter. Let’s face it; heating your home is expensive.

So when it comes time to replace their furnace, the biggest question is: will a higher efficiency one actually save you money?

You Could Save $22.50 a Month – or More – on Your Heating Bill

The best way to figure out if a high efficiency furnace is worth it is to break down the numbers.

Let’s say the average homeowner in Toronto spends approximately $150 a month on heating and cooling, and your furnace has an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 80. This is common for most furnaces purchased more than ten years ago.

An AFUE of 80 means that for every dollar you spend on heating, 20 cents is essentially being wasted.

When you’re ready for a new furnace, you upgrade to a high efficiency furnace with an AFUE of 95, a common rating for the furnaces of today, and just above the government-required AFUE of 90.

This translates to about $22.50 a month in savings (15% of $150) when your furnace is in use. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you add it up over the years. Since a well-cared for furnace has a lifespan of 15 years or more, you’ll more than make up for the higher upfront costs of purchasing a higher efficiency furnace.

Bonus: There are some programs in place that offer rebates when you upgrade to a more efficient furnace model. Talk to your HVAC retailer about what’s available to see if you can get even more savings.

Use Resources and Tools to Get a More Accurate Estimate

Remember, each home is a little different when it comes to heating costs, and the above numbers were calculated based on one set of numbers.

In reality, some estimates say that you could save up to 40% on your heating bills. That’s why you should:

  • Use information from your gas bill and current furnace for more accurate calculations.
  • Talk to an experienced HVAC technician – they’ll be able to help answer questions you might have about the furnace itself.

Benefits of High Efficiency Furnace

While money definitely talks, an upgraded furnace offers more than just savings.

Rest Easy Knowing Your Furnace is the Best

A new furnace means you’ll be confident in your heating system this winter.

With annual tune ups and proper care, you’ll be able to rest easy every night knowing that your furnace is one of the best, and you won’t wake up at 4 AM with no heat in -25 degree weather.

Your Home Will Be Quieter

Do you groan internally – or out loud – when your furnace turns on, and prepare yourself for the rising noise level? You shouldn’t be torn between your love of a warm house and your wish for silence.

High efficiency furnaces are much quieter, thanks to those leaps forward in technology! After you install one, you won’t be disrupted every time it kicks into gear.

You’ll Be Helping the Environment

High efficiency means that your new furnace will also be a little better for the environment. Not only will you be warm, but you’ll feel good about making a more environmental choice.

Talk to Us About Getting a High Efficiency Furnace

Once you’ve decided to join the high efficiency team, you have to pick the right high efficiency furnace. We want to save you money, but we also want to make sure that the furnace we install is one that will fit your home.

Come talk to us about our many available models, and we’ll help you choose your next furnace.

Contact us

4 Unexpected Benefits of a Furnace Tune Up

Updated for 2017.

Most homeowners know that an annual furnace checkup is recommended, but very few people actually take it seriously.

If you are one of those people who have been ignoring this suggestion, you need to find out why a furnace tune-up is necessary. Many homeowners just like you don’t think maintenance is necessary. They wait until it is too late, and then their furnace needs costly repairs.

There are many reasons why you should make an annual furnace checkup a part of your fall routine.

1. Reduce Your Energy Bill by Up to 30%

A furnace can make up about 50% of your energy bill. That adds up, especially if we have a particularly long, chilly Canadian winter. There is a silver lining – regular furnace maintenance.

A well-tuned furnace will be more efficient, and use less energy. In fact, some studies have shown that regular maintenance can save you as much as 30%. Add in your programmable thermostat, and you’re well on your way to making this winter a much more affordable one.

Annual tune ups are just one part of maintaining your furnace. You might cringe at the thought of doing extra work, but trust us; it’s easier than you think.

Simple things like changing your filters will increase your savings. Clean furnace filters will keep your home at the desired temperature without the high bills. You also help to ensure proper airflow, which reduces the need for frequent repairs that occur when the furnace is strained.

Bonus: A well-maintained furnace will last you much longer, which means you’ll get the most out of your investment.

2. Detect Dangers Like Gas and Carbon Monoxide Leaks

Annual furnace maintenance will help to keep you and your family safe. Furnaces produce heat through burning fuel and it is important to ensure that the combustion process is efficient.

A problem in the furnace system can lead to a gas leak. We don’t have to remind you that a gas leak is very dangerous.

An unchecked furnace also runs the risk of carbon monoxide leaks. These are harder to detect because the gas is colourless and odorless. High carbon monoxide levels can cause nausea, headaches, and in some cases, death.

Having annual furnace maintenance will help catch any potential safety risks, and give you peace of mind that your furnace is working properly and up to code.

3. Maintain Your Manufacturer’s Warranty

It’s a good idea to get regular furnace tune up so that you can maintain the manufacturer’s warranty.

On most good-quality furnaces, you can get a 10-year warranty option. Since a well cared for furnace can last as long as 20 years, you’ll want to regular check in on your furnace to make sure that it still qualifies for the warranty.

If there comes a day when you do need to cash in on that warranty, they are going to ask for service records to prove that you’ve been taking care of it. If you haven’t, you’re most likely not going to get the outcome you were hoping for.

Investing in annual furnace maintenance is the best way for you to be better safe than sorry.

4. Stay Warm, Safe and Happy During the Winter

When you get an annual furnace tune up before winter begins, you can find out if the furnace will serve you efficiently throughout the entire season. The last thing you want is to be awoken by the freezing cold at 2 a.m. on a -20℃ morning because the furnace broke down.

Knowing the condition of your furnace before the cold weather kicks in will save you all that grief. For example, if all the maintenance in the world can’t save your furnace, you’ll have plenty of time to replace it before the first frost.

To make sure that you get the best results from your furnace, you should research the options and purchase the best brand available to you. A good quality furnace is effective and will last you a long time.

We’ll Handle All of Your Furnace Needs

At Dr. HVAC, we can provide you with everything you’ll need this fall and winter, from furnace tune ups to installations and quick repairs. All you have to do is give us a call, and we’ll be there to make sure that this fall, you’re more than ready for winter.

Learn More About Furnace Maintenance

Trane Comfort Specialist logo

How Hiring a Trane Comfort Specialist Helps You

Anyone with a truck and a toolbox can sell you a furnace or air conditioner, but very few of those one-person operations know how to do it right. Fewer still will be there for you if you ever have a problem.

With this kind of operation, if you ever have a question or need a repair, you’ll often find out that they’re “installation only” providers. In fact, you’re lucky if they even answer the phone!

While Trane focuses on building a dealer network of quality heating and cooling providers, they wanted to take this principle one step further.

That’s why the Trane Comfort Specialist (TCS) program was created. It holds companies like Dr HVAC to a higher standard, and keeps us accountable for how we treat you.

What Is a TCS?

A Trane Comfort Specialist is a heating and cooling company that has met Trane’s strictest standards, and agrees to fulfill Trane’s ongoing inspections, training, and other requirements as well.

Only TCS companies are entitled to display the TCS shield on their website, and appear as TCS qualified in the official Trane dealer directory.

Benefits to You

Why should you care that Dr HVAC has the TCS shield?

  1. Rest easy knowing you’ve got the Trane quality you paid for. Only specially-trained technicians know how to install Trane equipment so that it functions to its full efficiency, works reliably, and lasts as long as possible. Incorrect installation can cause operational issues and even damage your air conditioner or furnace.
  2. You’re covered by extra guarantees. While uncertified companies can repair individual parts, TCS companies can give you more comprehensive protection:
    • Performance Guarantee: if your Trane doesn’t work as designed, Dr HVAC will give you a new unit for free.
    • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee: if a year has passed and the unit is still not satisfactory, Dr HVAC will give you a full refund.
    • You get excellent customer service – guaranteed. These days everyone says they give excellent customer service, but few actually deliver.
  3. If something goes wrong, you’re covered by liability insurance. TCS companies are required to have full liability insurance in case of the unexpected.
  4. Four hour response time: if you need help, you won’t be left hanging.
  5. Your 10 year parts warranty from Trane is solid – but only TCS dealers have the ability to go beyond the standard Factory Warranty. In certain circumstances, TCS dealers can claim parts beyond the 10 year warranty. For example, if your AC fails a month after your warranty expired, only a TCS dealer can ensure you’re still covered!

We feel all these things make good sense – they’re how we would want to be treated in your shoes.

What it Takes to Become a TCS

Only 17 Trane dealers in Ontario hold the TCS designation. Charles Cotton, a Trane Territory Manager in the GTA, talks about the program’s strict criteria.

“Many companies seek this designation, but not all can be approved. We’ve made the requirements hard to meet on purpose,” says Charles.

He adds, “The Trane Comfort Specialist program allows homeowners to rest easy knowing that their installation is done right. We put a lot of work into developing our equipment, and we want to encourage companies to keep their training up to date as technology improves.”

In order to get a Trane Comfort Specialist certification, a company has to meet a list of qualifications three pages long.

On that list are items like:

  1. Minimum two technicians on staff full time – not just subcontractors.
  2. Qualified customer service reps must be available to answer the phones.
  3. Attending all training courses scheduled every year.
  4. Must agree to random facility inspections and random inspections of work done in customer homes.
  5. Honouring all Trane promotions, including financing, trade-in rebates, etc. Must also participate in current government and utility rebate programs.
  6. Must have excellent record with the Better Business Bureau and pass spot-checks of other online reviews.
  7. Full liability insurance to protect customers’ homes.
  8. Must pass at least 30 customer satisfaction surveys each year.

The list goes on.

Every year, all TCS companies have to meet a minimum quality score. If this score is not met, the TCS certification can be revoked.

Dr HVAC is Proud to Be a Trane Comfort Specialist

At Dr HVAC, it makes us proud that we can meet the exacting standards of a company like Trane. We fully intend to ensure that we continue to meet their standards…and yours!

Find out more about Trane air conditioners

Find out more about Trane furnaces

Grandparents Reading Kids a Story in Winter

Do Furnace Humidifiers Really Work?

We need our furnaces to survive Toronto’s deadly cold, but that heat comes at a price: dry winter air.

Most people notice their skin, hands and scalp getting dry in the winter. For some, sore throats and “perpetual colds” are an issue. Dry winter air can aggravate asthma, dust allergies, and even cause nosebleeds for some people.

It can be tempting to buy a small tabletop or freestanding humidifier. But the only way to really solve the problem is to get a furnace humidifier installed. It’s the only way to truly change the humidity level of your entire home at once.

More Advantages for Furnace Humidifiers

Plus, with a furnace humidifier, there are no boxes to clutter up the living areas of your home. They can even help you save money on heating, as moist air feels warmer, and you don’t need to keep the temperature set as high.

Best of all, there’s no tank to fill. Furnace humidifiers connect right to your water supply. So there’s no struggling with the weight of a larger tank, or the constant refilling needed with a smaller one.

How Do Furnace Humidifiers Work?

As you might guess, furnace humidifiers install right onto your main heating and cooling system, usually in the ductwork right leading out from your furnace. The warm air leaves the furnace, passes through the fan that pushes it through the ducts, and then flows past the humidifier and out into the rest of your home.

There are 3 main types of furnace humidifier:

  1. Steam humidifers produce either a warm or cool mist, and therefore produce the most moisture. They’re also easier to maintain, but they do require a small amount of electricity. There is almost no risk of mold.
  2. Flow through humidifiers expose the warm air from your furnace to a constant trickle of water. The water naturally evaporates into the air leaving your furnace. While there is a filter pad that needs to be changed periodically, they are low maintenance overall. Again, these have almost no risk of mold.
  3. Drum humidifiers have a pan of water, and a rotating belt that passes through the pan. The water from the moistened belt evaporates into the air leaving your furnace. Because this type of humidifier has a standing pan of water, you need to be diligent about cleaning it or mold can form. This is the least expensive type of furnace humidifier.

You can install a humidifier on almost any kind of furnace system, even older ones.

What’s the Right Humidity Level for a Home?

Not only do our bodies hate overly dry air, our homes do too. Wood floors and furniture need a minimum humidity level of 35% to prevent splitting along the grain (known as “checking”).

Our bodies love more humidity – but if it gets over 35% you run the risk of mold growth. High humidity levels (over 55%) can help germs thrive and can cause wood to warp.

How Dry is Your Winter Air?

There are some easy ways to tell if your home is too dry. Obviously, if you’re getting shocks from static electricity, it’s too dry. If you’re seeing moisture condensation on the windows (“sweat” or even frost) it’s too humid.

But to be sure, buy a hygrometer (also known as a humidistat) from your local hardware store. They’re not expensive and will let you know the humidity level accurately.

Does a Furnace Humidifier Cause Mold?

The short answer is no – if you take the basic steps to prevent it.

Mold spores are naturally everywhere – they’re just a natural part of our environment. Mold needs two things to grow: water and oxygen. But they don’t need light.

Mold can thrive in any damp area inside a home, often in bathrooms or near plumbing leaks. Furnace humidifiers do not cause mold unless they are set much too high, creating the conditions needed to help mold take over. Again, keeping your humidifier set to 45% should work, but don’t forget to keep checking your hygrometer to ensure you’re getting the right results.

Here are some other important steps to keeping mold in check in your home:

  • Ensure your bathroom has a ventilation fan that works. The humidity from an entire family taking long hot showers can help contribute to mold growth in the bathroom.
  • If you cook a lot using boiling water, you may want to turn your humidifier off for a while, and ensure you have a range hood that vents to the outdoors.
  • If your technician suspects you might develop mold in your ductwork, a UV purification system will help eliminate the problem. Getting your ductwork cleaned and sprayed can help.
  • Front loading washing machines can develop mold if they’re not cleaned out periodically.

Watch for Temperature Drops

The amount of moisture that your home’s air can hold varies with the temperature. Warmer air can hold more moisture than cold air, so if the temperature drops the water can form condensation if it’s too humid. For this reason, try to keep a nice consistent temperature throughout the home, and get your family to agree on a sensible temperature range.

If there’s a sudden cold snap, it can mean your windows get colder than ever, and frost can form. When it melts, it can drip down and pool in the walls if there are leaks around the window. Check the seal around your windows, and if caulking is worn replace it.

Getting the Most from Your Furnace Humidifier

Whole home humidifiers work best with modern variable-speed furnaces. That’s because these operate at lower, efficient speeds most of the time and can provide a more continuous flow of moistened air to your home. It’s also good to know that variable-speed furnaces are much more energy efficient.

Having a qualified technician assess your home is the smartest things you can do to ensure you stay warm and healthy all winter long.

Want to Know More?

There are actually several different kinds of furnace humidifiers, and the right one will depend on your needs, the size of your home and your budget. You can learn about the different types on our main humidifiers page.

Learn more about furnace humidifiers

senior couple with heating bill turning down thermostat

How to Tell if You Need a New Furnace

One of the most common questions we get at this time of year is how to know when it’s the right time to replace a furnace. The honest answer is that the right time will be slightly different for everyone, depending on:

  • Risk tolerance: are you willing to risk a sudden breakdown?
  • Energy costs: how much of a burden are your monthly bills?
  • Your budget.
  • Comfort situation: do you have warm or cold areas in your home, and do they bother you?

But there are some warning signs you should pay attention to in order to save the most money long term and avoid sudden breakdowns.

1. Your Furnace is Close to 15 Years Old

In general, you can expect a well installed, regularly maintained furnace to last about 15 years. Our climate is cold here in Toronto, and furnaces have to work hard for about 8 months every year.

There’s an advantage to shopping for a new furnace before it breaks down completely. It gives you time to decide on the right model and even take advantage of seasonal discounts or rebates. If it’s February and your furnace dies and you’re stuck, you may not get the best possible deal.

Older furnaces, however, are not nearly as energy efficient as newer models, which brings us to the efficiency question.

This chart shows you cost of repairs, age of furnace, and how these affect whether you should repair your existing furnace or buy a new one.
This chart shows you cost of repairs, age of furnace, and how these affect whether you should repair your existing furnace or buy a new one.

2. You Need to Reduce Your Energy Bills

Technology has come a long way in the last 10 – 15 years, and huge improvements have been made in how much energy they use. In the 1990s, for example, furnaces averaged about 80% efficiency. Today, the legal minimum in Canada is 90%, and it’s common to find furnace models with a much higher rating than that. The EnergyStar program recommends replacing any furnace that is 15 years old for efficiency reasons.

In your furnace manual, there will be a number called an AFUE (annual fuel use efficiency) rating given as a percent. Compare that number to the efficiency of a new furnace, and you’ll get the difference in efficiency. When you apply that to your winter heating bills, you can see how much you would save.

Also, keep an eye out for sudden increase in fuel usage on your gas bill. If the price per unit has remained the same and so have your usage patterns, your furnace may not be working as efficiently as it used to.

should I repair or replace my furnace chart
This chart shows you cost of repairs, age of furnace, and how these affect whether you should repair your existing furnace or buy a new one.

3. Repair Bills are Adding Up

Just like your car, your furnace depreciates. Once your repair bills reach $600, it’s time to compare repair costs to the age of your furnace and decide if it’s worth it to keep making repairs.

For a newer, high efficiency furnace, a single $350 repair bill worth it. A 10-year old furnace may not be worth such a large investment. As a general rule of thumb, once repair costs reach half the cost of a new furnace, replacing definitely makes more sense.

4. Your Furnace is Making More Noise

As furnaces get older, they can start to make noises like pops and bangs. Aside from the annoyance, this could be a sign that parts are getting ready to fail. It can also mean that your ductwork is not sized correctly for your home.

If noise level is a concern for you, ask your technician about sound levels for any new furnaces you may be considering.

5. You See Signs of Rust, Cracks or Excessive Soot

These signs definitely mean that your furnace needs to be inspected, at the very least. The worst case scenario is that your furnace is a safety hazard.

Because your furnace burns fuel, it has certain natural byproducts that can be deadly, mainly carbon monoxide. Usually, these are vented safely up the vent, but if your furnace is older, there may be cracks or other flaws that mean gas is leaking into your home.

6. Your Furnace Cycling Pattern Changes

If your furnace is turning on and off more frequently, or stays on longer than it normally would to heat your home, it may be a sign that some parts are failing and others are working harder to make up for it.

7. Your Furnace Doesn’t Keep the Whole House Comfortable

Most homes have natural warm and cool spots, depending on where they are on the ground floor or another story, the number and size of windows, insulation quality, and even ceiling height.

If this bothers you, newer furnaces are much better at keeping a regular temperature, even if your home isn’t divided into multiple temperature zones.

It All Adds Up

As you can tell, you need to weigh multiple factors together in order to make your decision.

If you need more information about what the options are for a new furnace, don’t hesitate to ask us for a free quote. You’ll love our no-pressure process, in which you receive everything in writing up front. You can read more about how we handle furnace installation here.

Want to learn more about making your furnace last longer? Here are some simple maintenance tasks any homeowner can do.

Check Out Our Maintenance Tips

Toronto family indoors in winter

11 Tips to Help Your Furnace Work Better

Not many people know this but furnace efficiency, helping your furnace last longer, and saving money all go hand in hand.

Like your car or any other machine, your furnace is subject to wear and tear, and the less it gets the longer it will last. Using your furnace efficiently not only saves money on your monthly gas bill, it also reduces wear and tear. If your furnace lasts longer, you won’t have to replace it as often. By following the tips below, you’ll save money – twice!

None of these tips are hard, but just like getting exercise or flossing, the key thing is to do them.

1. Make Sure the Filter is Clean

The purpose of the furnace filter is to prevent dust and hair from clogging your furnace. But after the filter has been in place for a while, it gets full of debris. Your furnace then has to work harder to pull air through the densely packed filter, which places extra stress on the furnace.

How often you need to change your filter will depend on a lot of things. How often you clean, whether or not you have pets, and recent renovations can all make a difference. A good rule of thumb is to check the filter monthly for debris. If you can see hair and dust on the surface, then replace the filter or wash it if it’s the reusable kind.

2. Use a Programmable Thermostat

It’s still amazing how many Canadians don’t use programmable thermostats: only 50% as of 2006. They are one of the best ways of reducing your monthly gas bill, and they often pay for themselves in one year. They also reduce wear and tear on your furnace.

A simple 5-day/2-day programmable thermostat is not expensive, and it will allow you to set up a schedule for weekdays and weekends that will lower the temperature when you’re away from home or sleeping.

3. Make Sure all Registers are Open and Free of Debris

In order to work efficiently a furnace needs to be able to freely circulate air around your home. Make sure none of your registers are blocked by furniture or have trapped dust in the cover. Be careful when purchasing decorative registers – they look great but can restrict as much as 50% of the air flow.

4. Keep the Area Around the Furnace Clear

Most furnaces are kept in the basement, where we also love to store extra belongings. It’s really important to keep a three to five foot area around your furnace completely clear of stored items. This is a safety issue because there is burning gas in the furnace. But it also helps the furnace run smoother because air can circulate freely.

5. Curtains are a Great Way to Save Energy

Strategically using your curtains can make a noticeable difference in your energy bill. By closing them at night, you can prevent heat loss to the cold outdoors.

Opening them in the day on south or west-facing windows allows warm sunshine to enter and heat the inside of your home, just like with a car left in a parking lot. On any north windows, try to keep them closed, even during the day.

6. Get Regular Furnace Tune Ups

Make sure you have your furnace inspected and tuned up every year to ensure its running at peak efficiency. One faulty part can place strain on the rest of the system, and can lead to sudden breakdowns. You can learn more about the benefits of furnace tune ups here.

7. Use Ceiling Fans

It may sound odd to use a fan in the winter, but they can help even out the overall warmth of your air. Heat naturally rises, and tends to collect near the ceiling. Running your ceiling fan on low to push the hot air down to the floor works especially well in rooms with vaulted ceilings.

8. Bake More in the Winter Months

Give your furnace a break by using the oven more. It will heat the entire kitchen area and may help heat your entire ground floor. There are other benefits too: not only will you feel better with a nice home-cooked meal, your house will smell great.

9. Decorative Insulation

Carpeting and area rugs on floors help insulate against drafts. They also feel great underfoot, help with soundproofing, and make us feel warmer because they’re so cozy looking.

10. Keep a Good Humidity Level

Most people notice that the air in our homes tends to be really dry in winter. It’s not only drying on skin and throats, but it can make us feel colder than we really are. Using a humidifier to bring your humidity level up to about 40% will help transfer heat better. You can lower the setting on the thermostat and not notice it. More humidity is also better for wood floors and furniture, and can help prevent asthma and allergy attacks. You can learn more about humidification here.

11. Make Sure your Garage Door is Sealed

The garage is one of the biggest culprits of energy loss in the modern home. Make sure the garage door is touching all the way down and there aren’t any drafts around the sides are top.
By following these tips, you’ll keep your furnace running smoothly all winter long. You’ll also stay cozy and warm for less money.