Your Indianapolis Guide to Furnace Repair and Furnace Replacement

By: Homesense  |  December 21, 2018

At Homesense Heating & Cooling, we understand a furnace repair or furnace replacement can be overwhelming. That’s why we believe in a 360-degree approach and combine your family’s needs, our expertise and your equipment options.

Ultimately, we care about the best heating solution for your family. As a result, we train our expert technicians to walk you through a step-by-step process. We aim for a resolution which balances your budgetary needs with your comfort and efficiency goals.

Whether you are in need of an emergency furnace repair, a new furnace purchase, or just preventative maintenance, we created this ultimate guide to furnace repair and replacement

Several Reasons Your Heat May Not Be Working

The heat never seems to go out at an ideal time. Avoid confusion and speed up your heat’s return with this list of common furnace parts:

  1. GAS VALVE: This part opens and closes the flow of gas into the heat exchanger.
  2. HOT SURFACE IGNITER: It acts like a spark plug and creates initial combustion for the flames inside your furnace.
  3. FLAME SENSOR: This part senses whether or not the furnace flame is burning.
  4. LIMIT SWITCHES: Several breakers inside your furnace flip off when the unit stops functioning properly. One of these switches measures the pressure of exhaust gas exiting your home. Another one gauges the overall temperature of your furnace.
  5. HEAT EXCHANGER: This device in your furnace actually heats the air. A crack in your heat exchanger typically allows carbon monoxide to leak into your home. Normally carbon monoxide exhausts to the outside.

Frequently Asked Questions on Furnace Filters

Avoid a big furnace repair with simple maintenance like filter checks. If you’re unsure of the process, we can help!

What does a furnace filter do?

Furnace filters keep dirt, debris and other harmful objects out of your HVAC unit, specifically your blower motor. Advanced furnace filters also block pollen, bacteria, virus and mold spores from the circulation and contamination of your indoor air.

Clogged and dirty filters reduce your indoor air quality and make your HVAC equipment work harder. This increases your energy bills and increases your risk of a furnace repair or breakdown.

What types of furnace filters are there?

First, we recommend a consultation with a Homesense Heating & Cooling technician. He’ll share your furnace manufacturer’s guidelines with you so you get the right filter for your HVAC unit. More expensive isn’t always better. Sometimes the super expensive filters are more than your heating unit can handle.

Next, it’s important to look at the MERV rating (minimum efficiency reporting value) on each filter option. MERV ratings range from 1 to 16, with the higher rating indicating the better the filter at blocking particles from entering your home.

There are generally four different types of filters:

  1. Fiberglass Furnace Filters: These filters consist of spun fiberglass. Most commonly purchased because of lower costs, they are also the least effective at blocking small debris and other particles. Fiberglass filters should be changed every month.
  2. Pleated Furnace Filters: These filters consist of cotton paper or polyester and rank slightly higher on the MERV rating scale. The pleated design blocks hair and dust particles, as well as mold spores, pet dander and dust mites. Pleated furnace filters should be changed every three months.
  3. Electrostatic Furnace Filters: Either disposable or permanent, these filters use electronically-charged fibers to attract dust particles and allergens. They cost more, but can also be cleaned and reused. These filters have a MERV rating of 8-10.
  4. HEPA Furnace Filters: With a MERV rating of 14 or higher, these high-efficiency particulate-arresting filters consist of ultra-fine glass fibers. They block the most harmful particles from contaminating the air inside your home.

Which furnace filter is right for me?

To make sure your filter works with the correct specs of your HVAC unit, we suggest working a Homesense HVAC consultant. If your family lives with allergies or asthma, we strongly recommend you upgrade your filter to a higher MERV rating compatible with your furnace.

Use one to filter out allergens, dander and other harmful dust particles. If monthly filter changes feel cumbersome, choose one designed to last several months between changes.

Why and when do I need to change my furnace filter?

Read the manufacturer’s guidelines on your filter to fully understand when it needs to be changed. We strongly recommend changing your filter at least four times a year, with the changing of the seasons. Air passes through your HVAC unit throughout the entire year, so it’s important to change your filters in all seasons.

Watch the following video to learn how to properly change your furnace filter from our team of experts at Homesense Heating & Cooling.

Is it Time to Fix or Replace My Furnace?

Unfortunately, furnaces don’t last forever. If your furnace stops working, a Homesense technician conducts a thorough 19-point inspection of your system. He determines the issue and all viable solutions. Here are some of the things we check to identify if there’s a need for a furnace repair or replacement:

  1. Check the date of your furnace. The average lifespan of a furnace ranges from 16 to 20 years. Once you know the age of your furnace and when it was installed, it’s easier to understand where it is in its lifecycle. On most units, you can find the model and serial number inside the furnace cabinet, which indicates the manufacturing date.
  2. Check the AFUE rating of your furnace. AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. It refers to how well your furnace converts energy from its fuel into heat. The Department of Energy defines AFUE as, “the ratio of annual heat output of the furnace or boiler compared to the total fossil fuel energy consumers by a furnace or boiler.”For example, an AFUE of 90 percent means 90 percent of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home. The other 10 percent escapes up the flue and outside. If you cannot find your AFUE rating on your furnace, you can call your furnace manufacturer.You can also google the model. This number will help you compare your system to newer models. The typical minimum is 80 percent AFUE. Some models, however, may achieve up to 98.5 AFUE.
  3. Check your energy bill. It’s important to understand how much energy your furnace currently uses and wastes. Every furnace wastes some energy and as it ages, gradually becomes less efficient. With this information, you can compare your furnace and the potential energy savings with a new furnace. To help you determine how soon lower energy bills negate the costs of a new furnace, use this Energy Cost Savings Calculator from the Department of Energy.

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Five Types of New Furnaces

We understand a new furnace purchase for your home is a big decision and serious investment. It should last for the next 16-20 years, so we want you to help you make the right choice.

Here are the various types of furnaces available:

  1. Conventional Standard Efficiency Furnace: These units are 80 percent efficient. This means 80 percent of the burning fuel gets turned into heat and the other 20 percent vanishes up the flue. In other words, 80 cents of every dollar spent on heating is used, while 20 cents is lost. It includes a single heat exchanger, fixed speed motor, single gas valve and a single-speed blower motor.
  2. Higher-Efficiency Condensing Furnace: While more expensive than conventional models, highly-efficient units save more in the long term. In order to be considered “high efficiency,” a furnace must be 90 percent efficient with its gas usage. These units also have a variable speed blower, dual heat exchangers, geothermal system and an advanced control board. This board alerts homeowners and HVAC companies to malfunctions. These features cost more upfront, but typically provide a payback. You should see the return within three to six years with the reduction in utility usage.
  3. Downflow System: This system takes in air at the top of a cabinet, warms it up, then disperses it into your home’s ductwork. These furnace units typically are placed in attic or garage spaces. Downflow system installation is often challenging because these units fight the property of hot air rising and must meet strict requirements.
  4. Upflow System: An upflow furnace takes in air from the bottom of your unit, warms it in the heat exchanger, and then blows it upward into the ductwork of your home. Upflow furnaces require placement in a basement or crawlspace to be energy efficient, as they depend on warm air rising. Some benefits of an upflow furnace are better energy efficiency and added comfort. There’s also no need for extra flooring as the furnace can rest directly on the floor of your basement.
  5. Horizontal Flow System: This unit lays on its side and air flows in from one side and out the other side. These are typically found in attics and crawl spaces.

Furnace Alternative: All About Heat Pumps

A heat pump resembles an outdoor air conditioning condenser, with one big differentiator. Both heating and cooling take place inside a heat pump. This is unlike a traditional split system in which the heating happens inside with the furnace and the cooling happens outside in the condenser. We offer multiple options in this category.

Geothermal heat pumps are a popular heating and cooling alternative. For anyone who plans to stay in their home for a long time, it can be a great investment. As an eco-friendly option, geothermal units provide a heating and cooling source from the earth.

The cost to operate is relatively inexpensive and typically sees an 80 percent operating cost savings compared to traditional heating and cooling systems. The initial installation cost is considered higher than a traditional system, but the benefits are huge, including equipment lifespan and energy savings.

Geothermal heat pump systems consist of two components. One is an interior unit – the heat pump. The second is an exterior in-ground system composed of pipes and referred to as a ground loop. This geothermal system uses the constant temperature from the ground.

Typically, the temperature is near 55 degrees throughout the year. Water is circulated between the indoor and outdoor systems. These systems extract heat from the earth during the winter and remove heat from your house during the summer.

The benefits of geothermal systems include:

  • Extremely high energy efficiency
  • Reduced energy consumption and operating costs
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Efficiency incentives from utility companies.

What to Consider when you Buy a New Furnace

When deciding to buy a new furnace for your home, consider the following:

EFFICIENCY: We strongly recommend buying a new furnace with an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating of more than 90 percent. While this may cost more upfront, the cost savings, in the long run, is often worth it.

BLOWER MOTOR: Choose a furnace with a variable-speed blower motor. This has the ability to run at different speeds and provides a wider range of heating to your home. Variable-speed systems also save homeowners a lot of money on monthly energy bills. They also provide consistent comfort throughout the house.

THERMOSTAT: Ask a Homesense team member to recommend a programmable or smart thermostat to pair with your new furnace. With smart thermostats, you can control the temperature inside your home from your smartphone, resulting in reduced operating costs and increased comfort in your home. We advise against buying any smart thermostat. It’s best to pair the right device with your furnace model to get the most value.

EXPECTED MOVE: If you plan to move to a new house soon, it’s important to understand the age, efficiency rating and quality of the furnace in your new home. Get this information before moving in or making an offer. It may become a negotiating point.

QUALITY CONTROL OF INSTALLERS: Before buying a new furnace, make sure you fully understand the quality control process of your selected HVAC company. The supervising technician should go through a checklist with you of the specifics of the job. He should also outline an inspection process for after the installation. Ask questions until you fully understand everything and get it in writing.

Cost of a New Furnace Purchase

Many different factors affect the specific cost of a new furnace, making it impossible to determine one blanket cost. Here are several items to consider in order to make an educated decision when buying a new furnace:

What’s your energy source?

It’s important to understand how your furnace is fueled. Most furnaces are gas-fueled, with a cost range from $2,000 – $5,000. Alternatively, some furnace systems are powered by electricity, which typically range in cost from $5,000 – $15,000 depending on size and efficiency.

Electric systems typically indicate a heat pump-air handler combination system. The heat pump lives outside and functions like an air conditioning unit during the summer months, before reversing its function in the winter to serve as the primary heat source. The air handler lives inside and houses a backup emergency heat source.

How efficient are your furnace options?

An annual fuel unit efficiency (AFUE) rating indicates the efficiency level of a furnace. The higher the rating the more efficient — and more expensive — your furnace initially costs. Standard efficiency systems are rated at 80 percent, meaning 20 percent of the generated heat gets lost. Newer models typically receive a 90 percent rating or higher, with some reaching 98.5 percent. While these models may cost more upfront, they ultimately result in lower utility costs. The more you use your furnace, the quicker you will see a return on your investment.

What is the size of your furnace?

In gas furnaces, heat output gets measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). Single gas furnaces usually start at 40,000 BTUs and can increase to 135,000 BTUs. If your home exceeds 5,000 square feet, we recommend moving to a two system unit, instead of upgrading to the largest system.

How much will furnace installation cost?

As we mentioned above, the cost of furnace installation depends on many different factors. Furnace installation typically takes a team of two technicians an entire day. The cost of labor usually makes up about half of the overall price. Furnace installation costs typically include the following:

The Brand: While completely up to you and your budget, Homesense technicians give you several recommendations to consider for your specific needs and requirements.

Furnace Location: If your furnace sits in a difficult-to-reach spot in your home, the installation may take longer and require more technicians, which will increase your cost.

Choice of HVAC Contractor: We strongly recommend doing your research when looking for an HVAC contractor for a new furnace installation. Speak with the customer service representative over the phone or in person, ask all your questions, and make sure you trust the company doing the work. Ensure you receive a warranty in writing from your HVAC contractor which specifies the covered equipment, the length of coverage, and the process to resolve problems.

How to Make Buying a Furnace Less Expensive

On average, furnace installation ranges between $2,500 – $6,000 nationwide. Once again, this varies based on your location, brand, HVAC company, etc. We strongly recommend doing all of your research before making a decision to replace your furnace.

The following tips can help make the cost more manageable:

  1. Consider what it costs to operate. Understand the efficiency ratings for the various systems under consideration. We strongly recommend investing in a high-efficiency, Energy Star-labeled furnace to save you money in the long-run.
  2. Finance options. Ask about low monthly payments and no interest periods when buying a new furnace. Home equity loans, home improvement loans or reward credit cards can also make the initial expense of a new furnace more manageable.
  3. Maintain your furnace. Change your filters regularly, and schedule a yearly maintenance check from your HVAC contractors. Don’t put off a needed furnace repair.
  4. Control your thermostat from your phone. New thermostats allow you to set back your thermostat when you’re away. This helps lower utility bills.
  5. Take advantage of rebates. Most utility companies, manufacturers and dealers offer some type of rebate or discount when you upgrade to a new or more efficient furnace.

Common Comfort Issues in Your Home and How to Address Them

Whether you are buying a new furnace or completing a furnace repair, it’s important you are completely comfortable in your home. Here are some common comfort issues we see and recommendations how to fix them:

Wet or foggy windows

When the temperature drops outside, the humidity level drops with it. This explains why your windows are coated with moisture on chilly mornings. If you have a whole-house humidifier, check your humidistat and reset it so that your windows stay clear in the mornings. If you don’t have a whole-house humidifier, turn your fan to the “on” mode to increase air circulation in your home.

Hot second floor and cold first floor

Most of us have experienced the discomfort of a hot second floor and cold first floor. In order to fix this, try the following:
• Change your filters to ensure air flows freely.
• Insulate and ventilate your attic to lessen the amount of heat on the second floor.
• Proper ventilation to remove as much heat and moisture as possible from upstairs.
• Insulate your windows so you seal up all cracks, holes and gaps to prevent seepage.
• Change your fan setting on the thermostat from “auto” to “on” in order to mix the air more evenly throughout your home.

Cold or hot spots or frequent cycles

If you’re having trouble reaching the ideal temperature inside your home, it could mean your furnace isn’t sized properly. An undersized furnace simply cannot produce enough heating capacity to warm the total square footage of your home.

Conversely, an oversized furnace produces more heat than needed to maintain comfort in your home. This often results in “short cycling” and extra wear and tear on your furnace. It can prematurely age your system and lead to an inconvenient furnace repair. Check with your HVAC technician to understand the best size furnace needed for the size of your home.

Insufficient insulation

The R-Value measures your insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation. In the Indianapolis area, we recommend an R-Value of 38-60. A Homesense HVAC technician is happy to help you determine the right R-value for your home.

Trust Homesense Heating & Cooling for Furnace Repair, Service and Furnace Installations

At Homesense Heating & Cooling, we want the best comfort for you inside your home. In the winter, it means properly-working heat, which sometimes requires a furnace repair or replacement. Together, we believe we can find the best furnace system for your home, your budget and your needs. We provide clarity within the equipment options so you can make the most informed decision possible.

Ultimately, we want to do the right thing. We commit you will:

  • Receive timely and high-quality technical advice
  • Never be forced into making a decision with high-pressure sales tactics
  • Be presented with a variety of equipment options. You’ll truly get genuine advice on what is best for your situation—not just a push for the highest-priced item
  • Receive professional installation of your chosen equipment by a technician with experience and integrity.

So, if you find yourself in need of an emergency furnace repair or have been considering a furnace replacement in the Indianapolis area, give us a call at 317-670-0171. Or, you can click to schedule an appointment.

Homesense proudly serves Indianapolis and surrounding suburbs such as Broad Ripple, Butler-Tarkington, Meridian-Kessler, Noblesville, Fishers, Geist, Westfield, Zionsville, Carmel and Castleton. We are more than happy to answer your questions and determine the best next steps. We look forward to working with you!

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