February 2nd is Groundhog Day, when Punxsutawney Phil traditionally comes out of hibernation and tells us whether spring will soon arrive, or cold weather will persist and extend the winter heating season. This annual event has been widely celebrated across the country since 1886, but does it really have a correlation to your home’s HVAC?
How Groundhog Day Relates to Your HVAC System
According to Groundhog Day lore, if the sun is out when furry Phil emerges from his burrow, he’ll see his shadow and retreat back inside, and we’ll have six more weeks of winter. If the sky is overcast and the chubby rodent isn’t scared by his own shadow, he’ll stay outside which means that spring is on its way. Whether or not you believe a nervous groundhog makes a good meteorologist, a shorter or longer winter can impact your home comfort, well-being and monthly expenses in predictable ways:
Seasonal energy bills. When Phil accurately foretells an additional six weeks of cold temperatures, you’ll end up spending more on gas or electricity to keep your home warm. If the weather turns mild instead, you may benefit from lower utility bills for a longer period before the heat of …
The differences between forced-air furnaces and boilers, or radiant heating, are numerous. As far as heating options for your home go, Peachtree City is on the southern edge of places where both are viable choices. Which you choose depends on the type of heat you like and your physical preferences.
Radiant heating is slow and steady, while forced-air furnaces, including heat pumps, warm your air quickly and cool off just as fast. Eventually, a home with forced-air will warm to the point where temperatures are warm all over, but the furnace has to cycle on and off numerous times.
By comparison, a boiler runs continuously until the temperature reaches the thermostat’s settings. The heat radiates from wherever the pipes or tubes are that the boiler feeds. They can be in the floor beneath the carpet or tiles, snaked through baseboard heaters, or as radiators that sit in a room. Each room has a turn-off valve, so if you don’t want it heated, just turn off the heat.
Furnace efficiency begins with the AFUE rating determined at the factory. Short for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, AFUE is a percentage that expresses the amount of fuel consumed that actually produces heat versus the percentage lost during combustion and venting.
Mandated by federal regulations, today the AFUE standard efficiency rating for furnaces is 80%. More expensive high-efficiency furnaces that recover lost heat, however, come with an AFUE as high as 95%.
AFUE is simply the starting point for determining furnace efficiency. Additional factors also play a role in the efficiency you actually receive once the unit is installed and in operation.
Age of the Unit
A typical gas-fired furnace has a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. If an existing older unit is installed in your house, efficiency standards when that furnace was manufactured may have been significantly lower than today, while energy costs have increased. Upgrading to a new unit that meets current AFUE standards could result in lower operating costs plus better heating performance from day one of installation.
Boilers have a reputation as durable and reliable heating systems, but problems can still develop that require the attention of a knowledgeable HVAC professional. Here are the symptoms of some common boiler problems you might encounter:
If your boiler starts to make rumbling and popping sounds similar to a boiling tea kettle, it’s a warning sign of mineral scale and sediment buildup inside the heat exchanger. The accumulation can erode heating efficiency and put extra strain on the unit that shortens its lifespan, so have your HVAC technician flush the system.
If you begin hearing a grinding noise from your heating system on start up, it’s likely that the bearings in the boiler’s water pump are going bad. Unfortunately, by the time you start hearing the noise, the pump is probably already seriously damaged and needs to be replaced.
Heating System Switches Off
When a boiler starts up, but cycles off again fairly quickly, there are several possible causes, like low water pressure, a malfunctioning thermostat or a faulty valve. To get the system working properly again, your HVAC technician will need to pinpoint and address the underlying cause.
In today’s gas-fired furnaces, heat exchangers are one of the system’s central critical components. A gas burner flame doesn’t directly heat air moving through the furnace. Instead, the burner flame in the combustion chamber heats the heat exchanger, which in turn heats the air circulating through special passages. This not only provides optimum heating performance, it’s a vital safety feature.
Heat exchangers ensure that gases produced in the combustion chamber — including deadly carbon monoxide — are kept out of the system airflow.
What Goes Wrong?
A heat exchanger is designed for long service life. Certain manufacturers of new furnaces even offer lifetime warranty on the component. Nevertheless, a heat exchanger may fail during the service life of the furnace. Each time the furnace cycles on and the burner ignites, the metallic heat exchanger is subject to rapid heating and expansion. When the furnace cycles back off, the component cools again and contracts. Repeated expansion/contraction cycles over the years may eventually cause a crack. Also, heat exchangers may be subject to rust or corrosion.
Why It’s Dangerous