Fast Furnace Facts

Is your furnace a bit of a mystery? Acquaint yourself with these four important furnace facts so that you can feel more informed as a homeowner.

1. The U.S. Department of Energy has a standard rating system for furnaces to help consumers judge the energy efficiency of new furnaces.

This measurement, called the AFUE, must be prominently displayed on documentation that comes with the furnace. The AFUE number reflects the ratio of heat output to energy input. The higher the number, the more efficient the furnace is. When shopping for a new furnace, be sure to consider the AFUE in your budget decision. A lower AFUE will mean higher energy bills to run the furnace, which influences the true cost of your new furnace over the long term.

2. Energy companies treat the gas that comes into your home to run your furnace.

If one day you smell a strong unpleasant odor very much like the smell of rotten eggs, you probably have a gas leak. Open a window to allow gas to escape, exit the house immediately and call a furnace repair technician. Don't try to make the phone call before you leave. The gas is toxic and you could pass out, or worse.

3. The price of the oil you buy to run your furnace varies dramatically according to factors influencing the global economy.

You can control your monthly oil costs by negotiating a set rate each month with your oil company. To do this, agree to a minimum 2-year contract with an oil supplier at a competitive rate. Next, ask to have your payments spread out evenly over a 12-month period. This will prevent you from having to pay more per gallon if the price of oil rises. It will also level out your payment amounts so you're not paying the majority of your energy bills in the winter, when you use your furnace most.

4. Not all furnaces have a filter that needs to be changed.

Warm air furnaces, sometimes called forced hot air furnaces, are the type most commonly equipped with filters. Furnaces that operate using a boiler and radiators may not have a filter. Make sure you know which kind of furnace you have and if there is a filter that needs to be changed on a regular basis. You'll be able to tell this with a visual inspection of the outside of the furnace.

These four facts alone will help you to be a more responsible homeowner, as well as help take the mystery out of your heating system.