Furnaces 101 – When you turn up the temperature on the thermostat and the temperature doesn’t rise or the furnace doesn’t stay running further investigation is required.
Tuesday morning we woke up to a home that wasn’t quite warm enough. It felt colder than usual. We have a set back thermostat on our furnace to save energy. We turned up the temperature but the furnace did not stay running. It would start, then stop and we would start it again but it would not stay running.
In Minnesota in the fall, winter and spring a furnace is a necessity. We fortunately have a small back up propane stove in our four season porch off our livingroom that will give enough heat to keep our pipes from freezing. We turned the furnace on and realized it would not be reliable until we figured out the problem.
Furnaces 201-When you know you have a problem and you think you know what it is, it helps to get a second opinion to know you are on the right track.
My husband did some investigating and diagnosed what he thought was the problem. Then he called the heating and cooling guy that installed our furnace and air conditioner 1993. Our furnace was nearly eighteen years old. Somewhere in my husband’s brain he had filed the information that our high-efficiency furnace would only last 15 years and we were past that. My husband and the heating and cooling guy talked but it didn’t look good for our furnace or pocketbook.
They talked for a little while longer and decided that my husband should clean the thermo coupler and the repairman would stop by and have a look at the furnace while my husband was home. My husband cleaned the part with some sandpaper and that seemed to take care of one of the problems, the starting and not staying running part. They both had concerns about the heat exchanger in the furnace. If it had a hole in it as they thought it could leak carbon monoxide into our home. He told us not to use the furnace until the heat exchanger could be looked at for holes. They ordered a new heat exchanger for the furnace not before we spent the entire day weighing our options for our furnace.
Furnaces 301 – Time to get out the checkbook and settle in for a long evening’s work.
We needed to decide just how much money we wanted to spend. We could replace the old furnace with a new furnace to the tune of about $2200.00 plus labor to install it. We could switch to a new type of furnace that would have an air to air heat pump. The cost of that unit could be in the range of $7500 minus some tax credits we would receive. The last option was to replace the bad heat exchanger. It would be a few hours work and it was a $1200 part plus labor.
Our furnace guy told us he thought we could get the heat exchanger replaced under warranty. That part should last 20 years. We opted for replacing the heat exchanger. We paid the $1200.oo to order the part and when we return the old heat exchanger to the company we will get our money returned. Our repair costs will just be the labor to install it or it will be free if we do it ourselves.
Our new heat exchanger arrived on Thursday afternoon. We took it home from our shop and started to tackle the project around 7:30pm. As we disconnected each wire we labeled them. We tried to keep track of the order of removal from the furnace so we could put things back together correctly. I told my husband afterward that we should have taken some digital pictures as we taking things apart so we would remember how they went back together. Basically all that was left in of our furnace was its shell with the air conditioning stuff on top of the case.
Three hours later my husband was bolting the cover back on the furnace and starting it up. It works great and our house has the new house smell as the furnace runs. Now for returning the heat exchanger. At first we weren’t sure that there was anything wrong with it, we couldn’t find any holes until we turned it over and examined the other side. We found three holes in the exchanger, one large hole and two smaller holes. The exchanger was definitely bad.
It wasn’t the most romantic evening in the world but we spent it together in the close quarters of our furnace room doing the thing we like to do best, save money.