We all know that the price of fuel has gone up a lot lately. And as long as we keep buying it, the price is going to stay high!

This new "Energy Crisis" has brought on tons of advertising on ways to "Cut your heating bills by up to 60%" and so on and so forth.
UP TO are the catch words here!

You better read the rest of this page before you sign on the dotted line! Here are some unbiased FACTS.

A gas furnace is a simple appliance where gas is burned to provide heat. In this process, most of the heat from the flame goes into the house, and some is vented outdoors (wasted) to carry away any dangerous leftovers from the flame. The "efficiency" of the furnace simply tells you how much of the heat goes into the house, compared to how much you're paying for. If you look at the rating label on the furnace, there will be an "input Btu/hr" and an "output Btu/hr" rating. The input rating tells you how much gas it uses to make the flame, expressed in Btu's per hour. The output rating tells you how much useful heat the furnace is making for your home, also in Btu's per hour. The approximate efficiency is easy to calculate from these two numbers. Example:  If the input is 100,000 Btu/hr and the output is 80,000 Btu/hr, it is roughly 80% efficient. The remaining 20% of the heat (20,000 Btu/hr) is wasted to the outdoors.

Most gas furnaces built from the 1960's through the 1980's were in fact 80% efficient. This is because burning gas makes a lot of moisture, and the materials that the furnace, vent pipes and the chimney were made of, needed to have this left-over heat flowing through them to prevent rust and corrosion damage. These simple furnaces have been known to last 30 or 40 years, with very little loss in efficiency.

In the late 1980's, so called High Efficiency furnaces were developed. These furnaces utilize stainless steel or other corrosion resistant materials, along with plastic vent pipes to the outdoors. Now the moisture is not a problem, so the furnace can be designed to remove up to 95% of the heat from the flame, wasting only 5% to the outdoors. These units are considerably more complex, having draft blowers, electronic ignition systems, and numerous sensors. Expect more service requirements, and don't count on it being around for 20 years!

Now the nitty gritty!

Whether you have a 1974 or a 1984 model gas furnace, either natural or LP gas, plan on it being about 80% efficient. The only way it wouldn't be about 80% efficient would be if it's been grossly neglected, in which case a simple tune-up would bring it back up to snuff.

Your heating contractor is ready to sell you a new system, saying it will save you UP TO 60% on your heat bill. The new unit is 92% efficient, and he's willing to even wear little plastic booties so you don't have to vacuum when he's done, all for only $8,677.88.

Do the math! Your old unit gives you 80 cents worth of heat for each dollar's worth of gas it burns, and 20 cents is wasted. The new unit will give you 92 cents worth of heat for each dollars worth of gas it burns, with 8 cents wasted.

If your heating bill is currently $1000 a year, $800 worth of the heat is going into your house, and $200 worth is wasted by your old furnace.

With a new furnace, your house still needs the $800 worth of heat, plus the 8 percent that your new furnace will waste. $800 plus 8% equals $864. That's your new heat bill.  You save a whopping $136 a year! That's more like 13% savings, far from 60%.

At that rate, your new system will pay for itself in only 63.8 years!

You'd be much wiser to invest the money in insulation and fixing leaky windows. Then you won't need the $800 worth of heat in the first place.

BOTTOM LINE: Unless your old unit is completely shot (very unlikely), you're better off hanging on to it! Get several opinions, lots of crooks in this business!

For negotiating purposes, a new 90% furnace wholesales for $750-$1500, and the brands that spend a lot on advertising aren't really much better (the Nike effect). Only about 3 companies make all the brands out there, and in many cases, the only difference between the big brand and the one you never heard of, is the sticker on the front. But the price can be double!