Buyers & Sellers, Contributor Article, Home Improvement

Downside to high-efficiency furnace?

Reliability rumor examined

Q: Is a high-efficiency furnace more likely to break down compared to a mid- or low-efficiency one?

A: High-efficiency furnaces, those with a rating of 82 percent to more than 96 percent efficiency, are designed to extract and utilize some of the waste heat that would otherwise be exhausted out through the flue.

Accomplishing this task requires additional fans, valves and electronic controls within the furnace, and with more moving parts you have more things that can go wrong and therefore additional potential for breakdowns. However, I’m not aware of any substantial reliability issues that would cause me to shy away from purchasing a high-efficiency unit.

I would get at least two bids from licensed, experienced HVAC contractors, and have each contractor bid both a mid- and a high-efficiency furnace that is correctly sized to your home. Look at the cost difference between the two efficiencies, and ask each contractor to calculate how long it will take for the energy savings from the more expensive high-efficiency unit to pay back its higher cost. You may find that the investment doesn’t make financial sense for you.

You also want to ask each contractor for reliability data for the brands of furnaces they carry, and also look at what the warranty is on the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is the most expensive part of the furnace, and a long warranty — say 20 years or more — is often also a good indicator of how reliable the manufacturer feels the furnace is in general.

Q: We have a two-story house that is about 12 years old that has had squeaky floors for nearly the whole time we’ve owned it. We are considering selling and would like to correct this problem before we start go to market. It seems that the two general contractors that we have talked to didn’t sound confident they could correct the problem. I am sure the carpeting would have to come up. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Floor squeaks, as you might imagine, are caused by two pieces of wood rubbing against each other, or by the wood rubbing against a fastener. The noise can actually come from a number of different sources, but since you mention that your house is fairly new and has carpeted floors, I’ll stick with that scenario.

First of all, you need to do a little more research. Walk around on the floor, locate as many of the squeaks as possible, and mark them on the floor with pieces of masking tape. …CONTINUED