MINNEAPOLIS - Generally good for at least 20 years, the furnace inside your home is about as reliable as it gets.
"Most people forget that they have a box in the basement that heats their house," smiled Jarrod Beach of Sedgwick Heating and Air Conditioning. "Until there's a problem, and then it's a big issue."
These days there's a burning issue in the furnace business.
While most furnaces that are newer operate at about 80 percent fuel efficiency, new federal regulations go into effect next year that will change everything. The new requirements will be 90 percent fuel efficiency.
"You may not install one after May 1," explained Beach. "So there's a line that's been drawn in the sand and once we hit that point they will no longer be for sale in this area."
On May 1, in the northern half of the United States, including Minnesota, any furnace installed must be at least 90 percent fuel efficient.
This will mean a couple of things. First, the more fuel efficient furnace will cost at minimum a few hundred dollars more. Secondly, it may cost more to install. It's not as simple as swapping out the old with the new.
"The new 90 percent furnaces cannot vent into existing b-vent flu, or a chimney line, or standard flu," said Owens Cooling and Heating's Don O'Brien.
The new furnace requires not one, but two new lines that are made of PVC pipe and run to the outside of the house. One line is for the air intake, the other is for the air exhaust, and both must have direct access to the outdoors.
This could potentially pose quite a challenge if your furnace is located in the basement and in the middle of your home, somehow the homeowner will have to add two lines which could bring on additional construction costs. In some instances it could turn a $3,000 project into $6,000 bill.
But, if you purchase before May 1, any potential additional costs can be avoided.
Anybody who's got a furnace that's 12, 13, 14 years old might want to start thinking about this," said Beach. "It could save them a lot of money in the long run."
On the plus side, the newer furnaces are more fuel efficient and are expected to reduce the cost of heating your home; however, experts say it could take 5 to 10 years to recoup your costs through lower heating bills.
Our neighbors to the south will be required to have more efficient air conditioning units under the new regulations.
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