What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Our Furnace Problems

Quite often when household problems occur there is a bit of troubleshooting to do if the problem is not immediately obvious. In this case we had problems with our furnace but it was not immediately apparent. The problem was gradual only becoming noticeable when our kids made the comment they had never felt our house that cold. I just thought the house was a bit cooler because we had the daytime setting at 19ºC (66ºF) instead of 20ºC (68ºF) as well as it being early in the heating season so you tend to notice the cold more. Thank goodness this was during our Thanksgiving (Canadian) weekend so we were able to start the troubleshooting early.

Natural Gas Usage Graph

We can view our gas bill online and we get a hardcopy. Both include a graph of our natural gas usage that can be used as a visual. These graphs can help you troubleshoot and make you aware of a problem even if you have not noticed one. A sudden spike on the graph can mean you have a gas leak somewhere that you may not be aware of.

Oct. 25 - Nov. 26, 2007 is indicated in turquoise and highlighted by the bottom green arrow. Note the arrows are what I put in using Photoshop®. In comparison Oct. 23 - Nov 24, 2008 is shown in yellow indicated by the bottom pink arrow. What I noticed was a slight increase in natural gas usage despite all of the winterizing we did in the past year. In short our gas use went up instead of down as expected.

A couple of days after the bill came in I noticed the furnace staying on almost constantly but no warm air coming out of the vents. I checked the furnace room that lies off the laundry room and it was very hot. Obviously the furnace was working just not blowing the warm air. My husband checked it and replace the fan belt. The fan worked for a couple of days then stopped again. He re-adjusted the fan belt and once again it worked fine for a couple of days. We thought things were fine until a few days later I got up to a nice clunk. So I shut off the furnace and used the gas fireplace for the day until my husband got home. He brought another fan belt with him just in case. It turns out that he thinks he tightened the belt too much causing the one pulley to come off but it could be that the pulley was loose to begin with. He fixed it again and so far everything seems to be fine.

Nov, 26 - Dec 27, 2007 is indicated by the upper green arrow. The use for the same period in 2008 indicated by the upper pink arrow shows that we did use more gas during the furnace troubles. However, we used less gas from Dec. 29 - Jan. 23, 2009 than we did from Dec. 27 - Jan. 23, 2008 as apparent from the graph. During that time period in 2008 we used an average of 14 m3 per day, the same amount we used this year but the average outdoor temperature was 7ºC colder than in 2008. So we used less gas to keep the house at a comfortable temperature during January 2009 than we did in January 2008. It is encouraging to see progress in our attempts at reducing our natural gas usage.

The Problem

Our furnace is a Clare Megasave (installed about 1983) I that has a secondary heat exchanger. If the secondary heat exchanger fails it cannot be replaced because the company is no longer in business. As a result these furnaces have become notorious money pits when they start to fail. The current recommendation is to replace rather than repairing these furnaces. However, our furnace is in quite good condition. There is no signs of rust and it has been well maintained. The former owner vacationed in Florida every winter for about 7 years before we bought the house. Everything including the utilities was shut down so for those years the furnace was only used briefly in October and April. It was serviced annually as well. Given this history and the fact that the furnace was performing quite nicely before the recent fan belt problem and it has been working well since the fan belt (blue arrow) was replaced, we have made no plans to replace the furnace unless it does quit.

The 2009 Canadian Budget introduced the Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC) for home improvements over $1,000 and under $10,000 up to a maximum of $1,350 tax credit to be claimed on the 2009 Income Tax Return. We figured if we combined this with ecoEnergy grants and provincial grants this would be a good year to replace the furnace. We are also considering other energy conservation improvements and if we take advantage of DIY projects we can maximize the improvements we can make while taking advantage of sales, tax credit and grants. After talking to several friends the recommendation is to use this furnace as long as possible. Apparently new furnaces only have a lifespan of 10 year! So we will be doing a lot of extensive research on furnaces over the next few months.

Garden Gnome