home furnace

Is It Time to Replace My Furnace? What all Portland-area homeowners should know

As a Pacific Northwestern homeowner, your furnace is one of your most important appliances. Whether your furnace is electric, forced air, natural gas, or another style altogether, its role in the home is a simple but vital one: to provide heat and comfort throughout your home. 

Despite a furnace’s relative size and importance, it’s not an appliance the typical layperson spends too much time thinking about. It’s not something that requires daily attention, and when it’s working, you and your loved ones are comfortable and there’s no need to focus on it. 

But when your furnace is not working, when your energy bills are inexplicably skyrocketing, your home is cold and your family is feeling physical and financial discomfort, well, that means it’s time to evaluate your furnace’s viability. 

Did you know that the average gas furnace operates at only 80% efficiency, whereas modern high-efficiency furnaces operate at an average of 98%! That could have a profound effect on your family’s energy bills, comfort, and environmental impact. So what should you do?

Here are just a few factors we at Greenbox Mechanical recommend you consider as you evaluate your current furnace’s performance and efficiency.

How old is your furnace?

The average lifespan of most furnaces is about 15 to 20 years, assuming that it has been serviced and maintained properly over the years.  (Regularly replacing or cleaning the filters, for instance, can have a positive impact on performance and lifespan.) 

Unless you’re the original owner of your home, or you’ve already replaced your home’s furnace in the past, you’ll likely need to look up its age. This can typically be found in association with the furnace’s serial number and in many models is located on the inside of the service panel door. (Note: We ALWAYS recommend turning your furnace off before doing this kind of work.) 

If your furnace has been professionally serviced in the past, there is also likely a decal describing the service date that should clarify the age of your appliance. We strongly recommend an annual furnace maintenance to keep your furnace’s components in great working order.

Is your furnace making strange noises or heating unevenly?

Another tell-tale sign that it’s time for either repair or investment in a new furnace is its ability to heat your home in the way that it should. This seems obvious, but most families tend to congregate in specific spaces of the home, making the detection of an inefficient furnace sometimes difficult to detect. If you suspect that your home is being heated unevenly, then repair or replacement might be necessary. Relatedly, if your furnace is suddenly making strange sounds — knocking, rattling, or droning — then professional review is warranted. If you find yourself contacting professionals frequently for furnace consultations and repair, then this just reinforces the need for an upgrade.

Is there a sudden spike in your energy bills?

As a homeowner, you certainly know that the extreme weather months of the year can also be extreme in terms of your heating or A/C-related energy bills, and most utility agencies provide you the opportunity — either via your account on their website or physical documentation of your billing history  — to review your home’s energy use month-by-month and year-by-year.

If you notice that your home’s heating use isn’t following the same energy use patterns or that what used to predictable billing is suddenly wildly different, then you are likely having an issue with your furnace. 

What are my service options for my under-performing furnace?

The team at Greenbox Mechanical has a rich history of serving the greater-Portland area for their home maintenance needs, and that includes the world of HVAC and furnace repair or replacement! 

Our goal is to improve your overall quality of life, and that includes recommending solutions for your home that are energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and worth the investment. 

We’ll never try to upsell you or identify problems, because you deserve home service repair, honesty, and expertise that you can trust with confidence. 

Contact us today about any questions to have about furnace performance, repair, or replacement — we’d be proud to serve you!

traditional-water-heater

Tankless vs. Traditional: What Portland-Area Homeowners Should Know About Water Heaters

When you’re a homeowner, there’s so much to know and be responsible for. You’ve got general upkeep, yard and lawn maintenance, and, of course, utility bills. One of the main utility investments you’re making on a daily basis is that of your hot water. We’re so accustomed to having accessible, on-demand hot water, that it’s sometimes a resource we take for granted. 

How much am I spending on hot water per year?

Well, of course, the specific answer depends on your personal household consumption, though there are standards we can look to. Experts from the Department of Energy estimate that the average American household uses as many as 64 gallons of water per day, and that it costs you an average of $400 to $600 per year to heat water, making it your second-most expensive utility investment — one that represents about 20% of your overall annual energy costs. That’s a big deal! 

In fact, it’s such a big deal that you really should know what kind of water heater your home has, if it’s performing at its best, who to contact if it’s not, or if it’s time to look into more energy efficient models that suit your lifestyle and budget.  

It’s also the sort of big deal that keeps industrial engineers busy in an attempt to create more efficient ways of making hot water accessible to homes while using less energy to do so. For the sake of this conversation, let’s focus on two specific types of water heaters: storage (or “traditional”) water heaters, and tankless water heaters.

What are “storage tank” water heaters? 

The traditional storage tank water heater is the most prevalent type of water heater found in American homes. It’s essentially a large tank that can vary from 20 to 80 gallons in size acting as a reserve of hot water for your household needs. 

The hot water is released from the top of the tank and routed to its ultimate destination (sink, shower, etc.) while unheated water enters the bottom of the in an effort to keep a full tank at all times. This also means that the tank is always working in order to keep the water at an optimally warm temperature. 

These types of tanks can be heated using a wide variety of energy sources, most commonly electricity, oil, natural gas, propane and solar. Though the tanks can be insulated (either at purchase or post-purchase), they still create a great deal of wasted energy, mostly through stand-by heat loss or, in the instance of gas- and oil-heated tanks, venting-related energy loss. 

Despite these inefficiencies, storage tank water heaters are still the most common type of water heaters due to their relative low cost compared to other types. (Though the initial investment might be cheaper, these tank storage models may be more expensive to operate over time.) So, if that’s the case, then what’s another option homeowners in the greater-Portland area should consider?

Tankless water heaters? How do they work?

Tankless water heaters (sometimes referred to as instantaneous or on-demand water heaters) are just as described: water heaters that use no tank. When a user selects hot water from a faucet, unheated water is directed through the plumbing and into the tankless water heater unit, where a gas- or electric-powered element takes care of the heating. Sounds incredible, right? In many respects, it is! 

Depending on how much water your household uses, tankless units can be at least 25% to 34% more energy efficient than storage units and, according to the Department of Energy. But it doesn’t mean that these tankless units don’t have their drawbacks.

Unlike storage tank water heaters, there is very little wasted energy with tankless water heaters. However, because it doesn’t have the large reserve of hot water that a tank unit possesses, the water flow is very limited in an on-demand unit vs. a storage unit. Additionally, these tankless units can be more of an up-front investment, but will typically save you dollars over time. They do typically require more annual maintenance but maye  longer life than the average storage tank water heater. 

If you are considering a tankless water heater you will need to have either natural gas available or sufficient electrical capacity in your panel to power an electrical tankless unit.

Still want to learn more? Then give us a call!

Still not sure what water heating solution is right for you? If you have the sort of household that needs and uses a lot of hot water or you just have questions about what water heating system is best for your Portland-area home, then the team at Greenbox Mechanical would be honored to serve you! We use our expertise in combination with your needs, budget, and lifestyle to create customized solutions for all your plumbing, HVAC, and electrical needs!