No Calgary home wants to be left without a working furnace, especially in the depths of winter.

It helps to get to know your furnace, understand your options, and take the steps to maintain peak condition.

Most of the time, we don’t notice the furnace until it breaks down. It simply does its job. Knowing how it works can help you identify the warning signs and prevent problems before they arise.

We at Alpha Plumbing are always available to answer your furnace and home heating questions. However, the following should help you get more familiar with the furnace in your home.

Different Types of Furnaces

Based on energy efficiency, there are essentially three types of furnaces to choose from:

  1. Single-stage furnace: the simplest and cheapest type of furnace. It is either on and heating on the maximum setting, or off and not heating. There is no midway setting, so it is considered energy inefficient as it always heats at full intensity even when it may not be required, leading to higher running costs than necessary.
  2. Dual-stage furnace: more energy efficient because it has a lower setting for days when full heating is not required. This provides more control over temperatures in your home. The higher costs to install may be offset by lower running costs.
  3. Modulating furnace: this provides a more even heating experience throughout the home. The flame increases or decreases in intensity in increments, adjusting automatically to your home’s heating requirements. Again, the higher upfront costs may be offset with lower energy bills.


 

Furnace Service Checklist

Maintenance we Perform on All Calgary Furnace Services


 


  • Combustible Leak Check of Gas Piping
  • Venting System Visual check
  • Combustion Air Intake Present
  • Furnace Filter Check + Replacement
  • Remove, Clean + Re-install Flame Rod

  • Ignitor Inspection
  • Inducer Motor Inspection
  • Pressure Switch(s) + Tubing Check
  • Main Burner Box and Blower Area Cleaning
  • Electrical Connection + Control board Check
  • Furnace Blower + Fan Speed Check

  • Home Thermostat(s) Check
  • CO Monitoring check
  • Visual Combustion Check
  • Mech Room + General Housekeeping Check
  • Hot Water Tank Visual Check

 

 

4 new furnace technologies that improve efficiency


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If you have an old, single-stage furnace that hasn’t been changed for 20 years, you may be pleasantly surprised by the technologies that modern furnaces adopt.

The following four technologies provide extra efficiency and performance for furnaces.

  1. Smart digital electronics and Wi-Fi
  2. The latest furnaces boast a digital integrated control board. This is like a central hub for the heating/cooling functions of the furnace, controlling the gas valve, igniter, flame sensing circuit and blower fan.

    It also “talks” to the thermostats, air conditioners and humidifiers using wireless technology.

  3. The latest condensing technology
  4. Condensing technology now utilizes a secondary heat exchanger, which allows more heat to be extracted from the exhaust gasses to heat the home, increasing the energy efficiency of furnaces.

  5. Electronic ignition
  6. The latest furnaces feature electronic ignition instead of the old pilot light system. This means that fuel is only used to start the furnace rather than continuously while the furnace is on.

  7. Smart digital electronics and Wi-Fi
  8. An electronically commutated motor reduces the amount of electricity used by as much as 60 percent compared to a standard motor – that’s better for your bills and better for noise levels.

Which fuel should fire your furnace?

There are four main fuel types to consider for a furnace in Canada – each with its pros and cons. Following is a brief overview of your choices.

Electricity

  • Electric heating elements are used to heat the home, moving air through ductwork using a fan.
  • A good option in regions where electricity is relatively inexpensive.
  • PROS

    • Emission-friendly/better for the environment (if clean renewable electricity is used)
    • No flue pipe or chimney required: easier to install

    CONS

    • Generally higher operating costs than all other options
    • Ducting is required throughout your home

Gas

  • Gas provides a widely available, reliable, and safe solution for fueling your furnace and heating your home.
  • Using the technological advances described above, modern gas furnaces are efficient options for most Calgary homeowners.
  • PROS

    • High-efficiency ratings (92-98% Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency)
    • Affordable to install and run – generally cheaper than oil or propane
    • Choice – because of the popularity of gas furnaces, there are many models to choose from
    • Can incorporate smart technologies for more convenience

    CONS

    • Poor availability in some rural areas
    • Ducting is required throughout your home
    • Annual maintenance required
    • Takes up a lot of space

Propane

  • Where gas has availability problems or is expensive, like in many rural areas, propane is a good alternative.
  • Require a connection to a propane tank installed outside your home, which is regularly refilled.
  • PROS

    • Excellent availability anywhere in Canada
    • High-efficiency ratings (92-98.5% Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency)

    CONS

    • More expensive than gas (though cheaper than electricity)
    • Must be kept in government-approved containers refilled by licensed and trained professionals only
    • Ducting is required throughout your home
    • Regular maintenance required

Oil

  • Another alternative option for areas where gas is not readily available or is not economical.
  • Used to be a popular choice around Canada but the availability of other options has seen popularity decline.
  • PROS

    • Wide availability in all parts of the country
    • Smart new technologies can be used for added convenience

    CONS

    • More expensive to run than gas/propane furnaces
    • Requires a tank outside your home to hold the oil
    • Less efficient than most modern gas/propane furnaces
    • Ducting is required throughout your home

 

What are your furnace thermostat options?


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A key component of any furnace you select is the thermostat. With technological advances, you now have more choices available with this aspect of your furnace. The three basic options are outlined below.

  1. Manual Thermostats
  2. This is a traditional type of thermostat, affordable and simple to use but you need to change the temperature manually every time.

  3. Programmable Thermostats
  4. This is a more advanced thermostat that allows you to save heating and cooling costs by programming temperatures to change automatically throughout the day according to your needs – great for the spring and fall when the weather here can be particularly changeable.

    They are generally quite affordable but not all furnaces support programmable thermostats.

  5. Wi-Fi SThermostats
  6. With this option, you can control your thermostat remotely over Wi-Fi using your smartphone and some can even communicate directly with your furnace and flag problems to you.

    Because the heating/cooling can be adjusted according to your needs, this can help improve energy efficiency and reduce bills, though they are generally only found in more expensive furnaces.

Do you need a furnace humidifier?

A humidifier is recommended in colder climates like Calgary as low humidity makes the air feel colder and therefore leads to increased heating bills.

A whole-home humidifier is recommended, in most cases. These can help you accurately control and adjust humidity levels for comfort, working automatically with your heating/cooling system to increase humidity throughout the entire home.

 
 

Main Types of Furnace Filters


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Another key component of your furnace is the filter system. This influences the air quality in your home as the main purpose of the filters is to remove dust and allergens from the air.

It also affects how much dust enters the furnace system itself and, therefore, affects overall efficiency, maintenance costs, and lifespan.

In furnaces, a MERV rating is used to determine the effectiveness of the air filters:


Should you maintain your own furnace?

Any furnace needs maintenance. This will extend its life, maintain energy efficiency and reduce the chances of a costly failure just when you need your furnace the most.

How you maintain your furnace is up to you but bear in mind that there are many “moving parts” to a furnace. A lot can go wrong.

It is advisable to inspect your furnace regularly. You can even perform a few basic maintenance tasks yourself periodically, such as checking and changing filters and checking air ducts.

However, for safety and peace of mind, it is important to arrange annual maintenance with licensed professionals to ensure your furnace remains in tip-top condition and doesn’t fail you.

How often should the furnace air ducts be cleaned?

Most furnaces use an air duct system to distribute heated (or cooled) air around the home. The air ducts can attract mould and other pollutants (even creepy crawly pests) which can damage air quality in the home and trigger allergies.

It is best to clean the air ducts at least every 3-5 years or if the family starts to experience unexplained allergies.

Also, be sure to perform periodic checks of the system to remove any obvious obstacles or blockages that will reduce heating or cooling efficiency.

Need help with your furnace?

If you need assistance with furnace maintenance, repairs, or replacement, call Alpha Plumbing on 403-470-5785 to arrange an honest assessment from a qualified technician.

 
 
furnace service

We service & repair a variety of residential + commercial furnaces in Calgary



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We frequently Service, maintain, & install furnaces from these companies:

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