While thinking about your furnace may not be the most glamorous part of designing your dream home, it’s a critically important one. Many modern American houses still use furnaces as their primary method of heating the home, and many even have cooling capacity too. Keeping your home at an ideal temperature isn’t just a matter of convenience or comfort; it can have key effects on the safety and even the structural integrity of your home.
While your furnace may not be a brag-worthy interior design concept, many modern furnaces are both effective and discreet, and it may be time you thought about updating yours. Whether you’re looking to buy a new home, or have already found your perfect nest, it’s time to push back the curtains and peer into the bowels of your home.
How maintaining your home‘s temperature will impact your home itself
Maintaining the correct indoor temperature isn’t just about you. Your comfort is important, of course, but letting your home stay too hot, too cold, or swinging wildly between the two can actually damage your investment.
In places with high ambient humidity, allowing the home to become too hot creates the ideal atmosphere for mold growth. While this can occur in high-traffic spaces, it’s more likely to take root in areas with poor ventilation like attics, crawlspaces, and ducts. By the time you see physical evidence of the issue, you've likely already been breathing in lung-damaging mold spores for a while. This sort of atmosphere can also leave wood-frame homes in danger of rot and damage to structural beams. The problem is inevitably exacerbated in luxury coastal areas, where the added salt in the atmosphere will slowly erode metal and damage non-varnished woods.
Humidity and cold are not a desirable combo either, and are almost as likely to end in mold issues. The cold air encourages the moisture in the air to pool on windows and surfaces as water droplets. This leads to warped doors and window sills, rotten wood, damaged drywall, rising damp, and rusted features and cables. It will also encourage paint to peel.
While drier areas won’t have these issues, drying out wooden support beams or window frames can lead to shrinkage and cracking. This can have knock-on cracking effects on glass window panes, drywall and wall treatments, and even your paint, which will become dry and flakey.
Constantly having fluctuating temperatures in the home can be even worse than one or the other, as the sudden changes can compound these issues. It’s a far wiser idea to keep the temperature in your home consistent and even, allowing wood to stabilize its moisture content correctly, and to keep structural home elements looking great. A healthy home can only thrive at a healthy temperature.
It’s time to spruce up your furnace
If you own or are looking at buying a newly-built home, you probably don’t need to worry too much about the furnace. Modern furnaces can be up to 98% efficient, and have been created to be leak-free, safer, and more eco-conscious. It’s still worth insisting on a home inspection to make sure there are no leaks, cracks, or damp in the area of the furnace and that it is operating 100% correctly. Bring in a Rapid HVAC professional to do the inspection if at all possible. It’s good to get a tune-up and maintenance done at least once every few years, and you should definitely have one completed before you sign on the dotted line for a new home.
Depending on the age of older homes, you may be stuck with a furnace that’s operating at as little as 60% efficiency, however. This is one of those cases where older doesn’t equal better. Furnaces don’t last forever, after all. You may be able to upgrade your furnace if it’s near the end of life, and the energy savings are sure to pay for themselves pretty quickly.
A quick word about furnace filters
This isn’t to suggest that modern furnaces don’t require attention. Let’s have a quick discussion about furnace filters. It’s likely that you’ve never given this key aspect of a furnace system any thought, yet without them, a furnace will wear out faster and can easily become a household health hazard. Without getting into too much detail, furnaces pull in air, heat it, and then push it back out through a series of ducts. A key part of this system lies in the filter, which protects the blower fan from dust and debris in the air. This has a knock-on effect of improving the air quality inside your home, too, though that’s not its primary purpose.
MERV values from 1-16 indicate how much particulate a filter can remove from the air. That’s not always a good thing; the higher the rating, the more dust it removes, but that also means it’s more difficult for the unit to draw air through the filter. This could force the unit to work too hard, lowering it’s working life and even creating a risk for seizure or a fire. It’s important to strike the right balance. As a filter becomes clogged with dust, it becomes ‘thicker’ over time, making it harder to draw the air through. This is why regular filter maintenance is so important.
Typically, your furnace filter will be a pleated, disposable one. The recommended replacement times from the manufacturer are a genuine indication of how long the filter can operate at normal airflow capacity before needing maintenance. Be aware that a dusty or pollen-heavy area, or the change of seasons, could shorten that advised time. Always err on the side of caution and keep your furnace filter properly maintained and serviced.
While thinking about furnace maintenance isn’t the most glamorous aspect of owning your dream home, it’s one that will keep your household and your pocketbook happy. Running a well-maintained, eco-friendly furnace will keep costs down while ensuring you don’t have to squander creature comforts. It doesn’t take much to keep a furnace in perfect operating condition, either, so be sure to add this one to your regular homeowner’s maintenance list.