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Author: tanaquil Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 308543  
Subject: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/3/2008 5:19 PM
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Warning: scary long. Feel free to skip if furnaces make your eyes glaze over. However, it is a credit/financing question, not a home repair question I'm posing.

Some people might remember that when I first returned to the Fool over a year ago, I mentioned that I had a dying furnace that was a concern. (This furnace has been going through its death-throes for the better part of five years now.) Nothing has changed since then. Apparently old furnaces, like old soldiers, don't so much die as fade away. (Until, of course, they pick the coldest day of winter to implode.)

Ideally, I'd prefer not to replace it until I'm debt free (next summer earliest), and that's still an option, but with high oil prices, I'm starting to rethink that plan. Would be interested to get some feedback from the folks here.

Some furnace background: the furnace is the same age as the house, 1954, so over fifty years old now. Fortunately, the burner is newer. How new, I don't know, but the "new" burner could itself be close to 20 years old or older. (I've only owned the house for seven years.) It is certainly not operating at peak efficiency.

To make matters worse, the hot water for the house (showers and cooking as well as the actual hot water radiators) all goes through the original body of the fifty-year-old furnace. There is no free-standing hot water heater; rather, the water is passed over a coil in the furnace and then circulated. This coil is heavily corroded and starting to fail. It only produces significant quantities of hot water when the furnace has recently been on, which means I have to kick up the heat a half hour ahead every time I want to take a shower, and even the water goes cold before I’m done unless I shower really fast. (This has been going on since at least 2003. Like I said, it's a slow death.)

Anyway, all that is to explain why I say the furnace could continue exactly as it has been for another ten years, or it could die tomorrow. This is the major reason I keep as much cash as I can in the e-fund.

Now for the financial side of the equation:

A new furnace will cost approximately $5000. (I'm ignoring the possibility of rebates, etc. for now; there are several I could probably get if and when I go ahead, but I'd rather deal with the full up front costs and treat the rebates as gravy.)

I have a little over $5000 in my efund.

My job is secure (tenured), so I can sleep at night with a pretty small efund compared to most people, but I'd still rather not go below 2K if I can help it.

I anticipate having to do almost $2000 in chimney repairs which are not related to the furnace issue. (I've known about this for a while, but have been dragging my feet on getting it done. It does need to be done before the worst of the cold sets in, though. There is a crack in the lining of the oil flue.) This really needs to get done this month. The only reason I haven't had it done already is that I've been too busy to get multiple companies out to the house to give me estimates to compare to the estimate I already have. The bulk of this 2K will have to be paid out of the emergency fund, because I only have a few hundred dollars in the household repair envelope of my freedom fund.

I anticipate getting a lot of extra income in the next three months -- at minimum, about 3K, possibly as much as 7K if the gods are kind. However, I don't like to count on money that isn't in my hands.

If, indeed, I get 7K in the next three months:

12,000 (5K efund + 7K)
-2,000 chimney repairs
-5,000 furnace
------
5,000 efund reserves

Even with only 3K extra income, I could still end up with 1K in efund reserves -- not optimal but doable. So I could definitely do the furnace replacement out of cash on hand in January/February.

January/February... in New England. Not the most appealing prospect.

When I last looked into it, the company I would buy my furnace from was offering 0% same as cash for a year. I would absolutely not take out an interest-bearing loan for a furnace (unless my furnace actually died and I had no choice, I guess), but I would consider 0% financing. I suppose the current credit market could be a problem, but for argument's sake, let’s assume the 0% financing is still available.

A few other items that might be relevant:

I have about $6500 credit card debt which I am paying off at the rate of $500/mo out of regular cash flow. At that rate, with no extra income, it will be paid off by Nov 2009. Counting extra income, I can probably pay it off a lot sooner (how much sooner depends on the amount of extra income). My credit card is at a blended lifetime interest rate of approximately 4.5%.

My oil price is currently locked in at $4.65 a gallon, and January-March are the heaviest usage months. I burn about 700-800 gallons a year, after doing everything I possibly can to weatherize the house without major cash outlay. I can’t calculate how much a new furnace might save on efficiency, but it ought to save something.

(The poll format doesn't like my wordiness. Original wordy poll choices here; shortened versions in poll form below.)

-- Do the furnace now, and take the 0% financing. Pay off the 0% loan as soon as I have cash in hand. Pay off my credit card debt out of regular cash flow by Nov 2009.
-- Do the furnace now, and take the 0% financing. Pay off my existing credit card debt as soon as I have cash in hand, and use my snowball to pay off the 0% balance before it expires.
-- Wait and replace the furnace in January/February when I have the money. (I guess I could take my cat and go stay with friends for a day or more…)
-- Suck it up and live with the dying hot water and the fear of an overnight-dead furnace until spring. Keep as much money as possible in the e-fund in case the furnace up and dies in the meantime.
-- ?? Other options I haven't considered.
-- Continue deciding not to decide.

In my shoes, would you:
Do the furnace now with the 0% loan, and pay 0% loan in January.
Do the furnace now, and pay credit cards off in January; pay 0% loan with snowball.
Wait and replace furnace in January/February.
Suck it up until spring.
Keep procrastinating in my pants.

Click here to see results so far.

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Author: aj485 Big gold star, 5000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279385 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/3/2008 6:28 PM
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Having been the 'lucky' beneficiary of not just 1, not just 2, but 3 furnace repairs, each of which took at least 3 days and each of which occurred during the coldest parts of the North Texas winter (but still not anywhere New England - BTDT) I HIGHLY recommend replacing the furnace now.

Unless, of course, you can get SeattlePioneer to come out of retirement and come stay with you this winter. ;-)

AJ

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Author: MegHammond Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279387 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/3/2008 6:49 PM
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Don't know what part of New England you are in, but here in VT we have a weekend weather forecast of 30 degrees.

I voted for do it now, ASAP, and pay off with snowball.

1. As you noted, your oil consumption should drop with a newer more efficient furnace.
2. Delaying means risking furnace failure during a freeze which may also mean an expensive plumbing repair.
3. Murphy's law virtually guarantees # 2.

Hope that 0% offer is still available, but even if it isn't, the interest cost should be lower than a plumbing bill.


Best of luck.

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Author: makasha Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279390 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/3/2008 8:00 PM
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I voted choice #2, but with a caveat: if the money you're anticipating does not materialize, you should delay paying more than the minimums on your credit cards, and pay off the furnace monthly FIRST. Only because the underlying interest rate on the 12-months same-as-cash for the furnace will likely jump to a LOT higher than 4.5% (your blended CC rate). Also, if not paid in full by the 12 month deadline, interest is likely retroactive on the full amount.

Also, if you get a new furnace, will you also need to budget for a new water heater? Or will your new furnace perform water heating duties the way the current one does?

Does your projected $5000 budget already account for a new water heating system?

I wish you much luck with the NE winter and hope it all works out for the best.

Kasha

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Author: epc53 Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279391 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/3/2008 8:06 PM
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I'll suggest a slightly different approach:
1. Get a dedicated hot water heater (you decide whether a conventional storage type or the supposedly cheap to operate point-of-use electric type makes more sense for your house). If there's any advantage in keeping the old furnace pre-heating the water then it can remain plumbed in-line or not.

2. get kerosene backup heater(s). I'd already have one or more if I was in New England, maybe you already do.

3. wait until you really need to fork out the big money (which is now less since you don't need the water heating function anymore).

4.(?) Maintenance: In 50 years that lime build up on that hot water coil is a likely cause for poor heat transfer. My intuition tells me that previous owners likely weren't big on preventive maintenance (because that's common). If you can find a good contractor to flush & treat to remove that lime you might boost the efficiency and lifespan of that furnace (unless there really are true corrosion issues).

A new burner assembly is much cheaper than replacing the whole thing and this will usually boost reliability substantially.

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Author: 6Bitsadollar Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279392 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/3/2008 8:40 PM
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wait until you really need to fork out the big money


I tend to agree with the earlier poster.

If possible get a regular hot water heater. I don't quite understand this, but are you having to run the heater all year round just to get hot water for your daily needs?

I would then just let the heater do its thing over the winter. Do you have it cleaned each season?

I feel for you. I think it was last March that the we had to replace ours for a cost of $5500. I was quite relieved to be able to write a check for the full amount and not be too sad about it. Just grateful the money was there.

I am thinking if you get a separate hot water heater you might be able to buy time until the thing dies and by that time maybe your finances will be a bit better.

Molly

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Author: LaraAmber Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279395 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/3/2008 10:06 PM
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I would definitely get this taken care of right away. Imagine the worst, a blizzard hits and the heater goes out. How life threatening could it be? Your wait times for repairs, etc. will also be longer in the winter, just like wait times to have your A/C worked on in the height of the summer heat.

Lara Amber

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Author: ChurchyLaFemme Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279396 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/3/2008 11:27 PM
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If possible get a regular hot water heater. I don't quite understand this, but are you having to run the heater all year round just to get hot water for your daily needs?

I would then just let the heater do its thing over the winter. Do you have it cleaned each season?


I hate to rain on people's parades, but the OP appears to have hot water baseboard heat, not a forced air furnace and the boiler for the heating system also supplies hot water to the taps. Getting a separate water heater would be ludicrous in this case.

I'd check into a cold start boiler if you're doing a boiler replacement.

http://www.energysavingsusa.net/page/page/1528955.htm

Churchy

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279402 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/4/2008 8:34 AM
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In my view as a now retired gas furnace repairman, the best argument for replacing an old oil furnace is if you have access to natural gas as a fuel, which even today is a good deal cheaper than oil.

I've never understood why so many people remain dependent on oil for fuel in the New England states ---- urban Washington state residents abandonned oil in favor of natural gas in droves during the 1970s and 1980s.

I'm supposing that you just don't have access to natural gas.

And heat pumps, which work quite well especially in conjunction with cheap electricity supplies in the Northwest, also aren't likely to be especially effective with your cold winter weather.

Old oil furnaces like yours tend to be like tanks, and simple in construction, although heat exchangers can crack which necessitates replacement. And efficiency levels aren't especially good, especially combined with your very high oil price.


As you recognize --- you have options. Try to identify as many as possible and make a decision based on those facts.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279403 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/4/2008 8:39 AM
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Also, I would MUCH prefer to replace a furnace and especially a boiler during the summer than the winter. You are likely to get a better deal and your contractor wont feel pressured to get the job done.

The best reason for replacing heating equipment in the winter is that you have no choice.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: tanaquil Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279404 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/4/2008 9:07 AM
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I'm supposing that you just don't have access to natural gas.

You suppose correctly. :-( I would go for natural gas in a heartbeat if I could (I prefer cooking with gas, too), but there is no gas line on my street (I live on a cul de sac). There is a line on the next street over, but it was one of the first things I asked about when I moved into this house, and was told that all the neighbors would have to go in together and pay something on the order of 10K each to have it extended into our area. Not going to happen, alas.

I think that's the main reason so many New Englanders are still on oil -- the infrastructure for gas is not there. I don't know what the reasons are for that historically, but it seems to be the way things are.

I wonder if stratospheric oil prices will force the government to get involved and require the expansion of the gas line grid, one of these days.

Thanks so much to everyone for your input! I will compose some more individual responses when I have the chance, but I really appreciate all your thoughts (and the fact that you read through that monster post to begin with).

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Author: tanaquil Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279405 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/4/2008 9:34 AM
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Also, if you get a new furnace, will you also need to budget for a new water heater? Or will your new furnace perform water heating duties the way the current one does?

The new furnace would have a heating coil, just like the current one (but hopefully work a heck of a lot better, not being over 50 years old!). So the $5000 includes fixing the hot water problem.

Someone asked about getting a separate water heater. As I understand it, and as I think someone else pointed out, that option doesn't make a lot of sense cost-wise compared to heating hot water with a furnace that is already running full-time in winter. The cost of running the furnace in summer to heat water is actually pretty minimal compared to, say, an electric water heater (my friend had an electric water heater until recently and her electric bill would make me faint); I use only a tiny bit of oil over the summer, and it accomplishes the dual purpose of starting up the furnace periodically in summer to keep it functioning smoothly, which you're supposed to do anyway. (Kind of like periodically starting up a car when you're not driving it.)

There is the option of getting a water tank to accompany the furnace (would cost an additional 2K). This is not a separate heater, but is basically a storage tank to keep hot water in reserve. (I'm not explaining this very well; they keep explaining it to me, but it doesn't stick well in my brain. I do better with dead languages.) It would offer a higher guarantee of not running out of hot water, but with only one person in the house, it's really not necessary. I could always add such a tank later if I still have hot water supply issues once the furnace is replaced, but it would be a luxury rather than a need.

I agree that I would prioritize paying off the 0% balance if I had any doubt at all of being able to do it by the deadline.

Thanks for your input and kind wishes! This is really helping me to think through the problem -- my brain has been circling the problem for months with no resolution.

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Author: tanaquil Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279406 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/4/2008 9:40 AM
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Churchy,

You are correct, I have hot water baseboard heat.

I wasn't familiar with cold start boilers -- thanks for the link! Do you have one yourself?

I really love this community. You can learn about credit, and furnace technology too. ^_^

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Author: tanaquil Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279407 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/4/2008 9:47 AM
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Don't know what part of New England you are in, but here in VT we have a weekend weather forecast of 30 degrees.

Yikes! I'm in CT, fortunately -- so far, the furnace has barely started to come on, but by November it will be a different story.

Your point about the risk of frozen plumbing is well taken! Thank you.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279408 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/4/2008 9:59 AM
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<<I'm supposing that you just don't have access to natural gas.

You suppose correctly. :-( I would go for natural gas in a heartbeat if I could (I prefer cooking with gas, too), but there is no gas line on my street (I live on a cul de sac). There is a line on the next street over, but it was one of the first things I asked about when I moved into this house, and was told that all the neighbors would have to go in together and pay something on the order of 10K each to have it extended into our area. Not going to happen, alas.
>>


You might consider investigating that option in more detail with the utility company.

Around here, the gas utility I worked for supplied expensive manufactured gas until 1959 and the utility piping system was very limited. When cheap natural gas arrived, the utility extended gas mains and services all over, often heavily subsidized by utility customers rather than paid for exclusively by new customers.

That was still a good deal, because those new customers became people helping to extend gas services further, and this policy mushroomed during the 1970s with high oil prices. So the piping network served huge numbers of new people, in effect subsidized by the still low price of natural gas.

That cam to an end in 1994, when the state utility commission balked at that not official but winked at policy, and getting gas lines extended became a lot more expensive.

It sounds like your area would benefit a lot from a similar policy.

Even at $10,000/home it might well be a worthwhile investment, cutting fuel prices and perhaps increasing property values as well. But I don't doubt that in good times a lot of homeowner's have higher priorities, like buying granite countertops. And in bad times, so many people have to worry about being able to pay off the debt on the granite countertops, or whatver.

Pardon my cycnicism.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: dswing Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279484 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/6/2008 12:15 PM
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Hi tanaquil:

Just to pile on a couple more items:

I had an "original to the house" furnace when I bought my 1957 house that is now a rental property. There's the old saying: "They don't build 'em like they used to ..." and in the case of furnaces in particular, THANK GOD THEY DO NOT. A 50/yr old furnace is probably working at 30% efficiency -- whereas even an inexpensive new unit will be 80% efficient (by law) or better. It is common to see a 30% reduction in energy bills after installing a new unit. I certainly did.

My old furnace had a nasty habit of breaking down when the weather hit -2 degrees and it had to run constantly. That's why it always seems like Murphy's Law when your furnace breaks. And when it is sub-zero outside the danger is greatest for a water line to freeze and break while you're sleeping...

I vote for taking advantage of the 0% deal and fix it now. I have spent the past couple of weeks doing furnace cleaning, heater maintenance, and firewood accumulation at my properties. It is always better to do these things before the cold weather hits and *everyone else* has the same "oh crud, it's almost winter!" thoughts.

If you really want to work this thing on a budget, an alternate method might be to place an ad in Craigslist (or search the skilled labor ads already posted). Because of the housing downturn, you might find an installer who wants to moonlight after hours and spend the weekend putting in a new furnace for you. You might save a bundle. Places like Lowe's and Home Depot sell equipment at what amounts to what a plumbing & heating outfit can buy wholesale. YMMV...

Best of luck keeping warm!

~dswing

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Author: llambe Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279485 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/6/2008 12:16 PM
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Although OT, I'd like to hear more about why having a hot water baseboard heat furnace and a separate water heater be ludicrous? I ask because we have both (running on gas not oil). It looks to me as if both have been there all along (based on the layout) which is since 1962. I'll have to look to see if they're actually connected but the water heater looks like a normal water heater to me.

Lael

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279489 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/6/2008 12:38 PM
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<< A 50/yr old furnace is probably working at 30% efficiency -- whereas even an inexpensive new unit will be 80% efficient (by law) or better. >>



These kinds of claims are the method dealers use to panic people into replacing equipment.


Most furnaces even going back to the 1920s were pretty efficient, usually being limited by the need to keep exhaust gasses hot to get them to flow up through a chimney. For natural gas furnaces, that meant an upper limit of about 75% efficiency, minus such things as pilot light gas consumption.

In the 1970s, with the first energy scare, new gas equipment came out that had two basic efficiency levels. 80% efficient equipment achieved that efficiency level by eliminating pilot lights and incorporating a motor that forced combustion products into the chimney, reducing stack temperatures to 400 degrees or so from 500+ degrees.

The 90% efficient furnaces eliminated pilot and used a motor to circulate combustion gasses as well, in addition to which they were designed to condense the water in the combustion gasses, which allowed the latent heat of condensing water to be used and to cool the combustion gasses down to 120 degrees or so.

Old equipment could have been poorly adjusted. But generally efficiency levels of 70-75% should be achievable on home furnaces and boilers dating back to the 1920s.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279490 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/6/2008 12:43 PM
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<<Although OT, I'd like to hear more about why having a hot water baseboard heat furnace and a separate water heater be ludicrous? I ask because we have both (running on gas not oil). It looks to me as if both have been there all along (based on the layout) which is since 1962. I'll have to look to see if they're actually connected but the water heater looks like a normal water heater to me.

Lael
>>


It can be a good combination, and is quite common. The disadvantages are that you have two pieces of equipment to maintain and buy. The advantage is that you don't have to keep a big boiler hot during the off heating season.

Some high efficiency gas boilers (90% efficiency) will use heat from the boiler to provide heat to a separate water storage tank. Those boilers don't waste much heat during the summer, and you gain the 90% efficiency for heating your water, which a conventional water heater with it's own burner generally can't match.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: dswing Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279509 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/6/2008 4:54 PM
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Most furnaces even going back to the 1920s were pretty efficient.

They were OK when *new*, but in 2008 a 1920's piece of equipment is no longer a good idea even if it "still works". Cast iron loses its ability to radiate heat over time, and a 100-year-old unit is a dinosaur by any measure. Even the plain-jane forced air furnaces of identical design are 50% smaller today than even 30 years ago. If we're talking about boilers, the differences are even more extreme.

I've been on jobs where we've replaced 1,000,000,000 BTU(!) boilers that filled a room (and could only be replaced by breaking them apart with a sledge-hammer to get them out the door) with two 200K BTU high-efficiency boilers, each the size of a dishwasher. They heat water faster, with less energy, and can even intelligently manage the combustion at different altitudes and flow rates. Ahh, computers...

All furnaces today must be at least 78% AFUE, and to have an Energy Star rating must be at least 90% AFUE.

~dswing

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Author: clyde59 One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279510 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/6/2008 4:56 PM
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I anticipate having to do almost $2000 in chimney repairs which are not related to the furnace issue. (I've known about this for a while, but have been dragging my feet on getting it done. It does need to be done before the worst of the cold sets in, though. There is a crack in the lining of the oil flue.) This really needs to get done this month. The only reason I haven't had it done already is that I've been too busy to get multiple companies out to the house to give me estimates to compare to the estimate I already have. The bulk of this 2K will have to be paid out of the emergency fund, because I only have a few hundred dollars in the household repair envelope of my freedom fund.

I didn't see anyone addressed the chimney problem. Does your chimney have a liner? We had a liner put in our chimney for a couple hundred dollars (3-story house). That was 15 years ago but I doubt it's as much as $2,000 these days.

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279517 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/6/2008 7:04 PM
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<< Cast iron loses its ability to radiate heat over time, >>


Never heard of that claim before. Do you have documentation for it?



<<Even the plain-jane forced air furnaces of identical design are 50% smaller today than even 30 years ago. If we're talking about boilers, the differences are even more extreme.
>>


Yes, the physical sizes are smaller. That has nothing to do with efficiency.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: ChurchyLaFemme Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279534 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/7/2008 9:18 AM
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Yes, the physical sizes are smaller. That has nothing to do with efficiency.



Seattle Pioneer


Sure it does. You're getting the same or more BTU's from a smaller unit and they use less fuel per BTU. If they could have done that 50 years ago, they would have.

An automotive example of the phenomenon would be the comparison between my parents' 1958 Chevy wagon and my wife's and my 2002 Honda Odyssey. The '58 Chevy had a 283 CID V-8 producing 195 HP and got about 17 mpg on the highway, The Odyssey has a 3500 CC ( 223 CID) V-6, produces 240 HP and gets about 24 MPG on the highway. Smaller engine, more power, significantly better gas mileage. The Odyssey also can seat 7 whereas the Chevy was limited to 6.

Churchy

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279536 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/7/2008 9:37 AM
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<<Yes, the physical sizes are smaller. That has nothing to do with efficiency.



Seattle Pioneer

Sure it does. You're getting the same or more BTU's from a smaller unit and they use less fuel per BTU. If they could have done that 50 years ago, they would have.
>>


Sorry Churchy. The physical size of an appliance has no necessary relationship to the energy efficiency of the operation of the appliance.

Furnaces and boilers from the 1920s were large for their BTU input because they relied upon gravity to circulate water and heat, rather than fans and pumps. Postwar forced air furnaces and boilers were smaller because they started using fans and pumps, and that design process continues, making them smaller.

But energy efficiency is a different issue.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: tanaquil Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279540 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/7/2008 10:08 AM
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Thanks, clyde! Yes, the chimney has two flues (one for the regular wood burning fireplace in the LR, one for the oil furnace in the basement) and the existing liner in the oil flue is cracked near the bottom. The representative who cleaned my chimney and found the crack said that the placement of the crack would mean replacing the entire liner for the oil flue, hence the expense.

However, it is possible they're overstating the expense. I have worked with this company before, and they do excellent work, but they're not cheap. I'd like to get recommendations from a couple of other solid chimney repair companies before I go ahead with it.

Thanks again to everyone for their input on this whole subject... you have convinced me that my native habit of procrastination is not a good guide in this case, so I have a couple of appointments scheduled for estimates on furnace replacement. I'll be asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of research in the next couple of weeks. I'll be sure to report back!

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279557 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/7/2008 4:45 PM
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<<Yes, the physical sizes are smaller. That has nothing to do with efficiency.



Seattle Pioneer

Sure it does. You're getting the same or more BTU's from a smaller unit and they use less fuel per BTU. If they could have done that 50 years ago, they would have.

An automotive example of the phenomenon would be the comparison between my parents' 1958 Chevy wagon and my wife's and my 2002 Honda Odyssey. The '58 Chevy had a 283 CID V-8 producing 195 HP and got about 17 mpg on the highway, The Odyssey has a 3500 CC ( 223 CID) V-6, produces 240 HP and gets about 24 MPG on the highway. Smaller engine, more power, significantly better gas mileage. The Odyssey also can seat 7 whereas the Chevy was limited to 6.

Churchy>>


Smaller cars tend to be more efficient because they have less mass to start and stop. That doesn't apply to furnaces --- if they have a lot more iron to heat up and cool off, the thermostat merely turns the equipment on and off earlier to account for that.

Efficiency in furnace design comes mainly from changes in the way that equipment is vented, which has allowed more heat to be extracted and still permit combustion gasses to be disposed of safely.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: AlisonWonderland Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279560 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/7/2008 5:22 PM
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I'll be asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of research in the next couple of weeks.

You might want to post on the Building / Maintaining a Home board as well:

http://boards.fool.com/Messages.asp?bid=100167

~~ Alison, appreciative of all the expertise to be found on the boards

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Author: PipneyJane Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 279577 of 308543
Subject: Re: Poll: Furnace mediatations and poll Date: 10/8/2008 8:28 AM
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There is the option of getting a water tank to accompany the furnace (would cost an additional 2K). This is not a separate heater, but is basically a storage tank to keep hot water in reserve. (I'm not explaining this very well; they keep explaining it to me, but it doesn't stick well in my brain. I do better with dead languages.) It would offer a higher guarantee of not running out of hot water, but with only one person in the house, it's really not necessary. I could always add such a tank later if I still have hot water supply issues once the furnace is replaced, but it would be a luxury rather than a need.


We have something similar to this - it isn't as bad an idea as you think, but it isn't as fuel efficient as a "combi-boiler". Our boiler is gas and supplies hot water and heats our radiators. When we use hot water, it replenishes whatever is taken out of the tank. Since the boiler is on a timer, when it comes on it will reheat the existing water in the tank to bring it up to optimum temperature.

In the UK, these tanks come fully fitted with heating elements so that they can operate as electronic emersion heaters if the boiler fails. You need to ensure there is adequate insulation on the tank and an electronic timer for the heating element (I was advised to have it set up so that the "on/off" switch for the electronic heating element comes between the timer and the tank - that way, you only ever have to set the timer once, which saves wear).

- Pam

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