Turning up the Heat ( and Preparing for the Heat)

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Hello folks, and thanks for popping by for another chapter in the happenings of ActiveSteve. The contents of this little blog post may not be the most riveting that I’ve ever written, but it was certainly and exciting moment for Ms. ActiveSteve and I 🙂 People, I’m talking about none other than a new furnace, and a new air conditioner! Yes, it definitely would appear to not be the right time of year for a new air conditioner, but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll explain it all out to you fine folks, and I’m sure you’ll see that it was a good time to do this. For those of you who have a penchant for the gory details, and particularly in pictures, click yourself over to Flickr to see the set of pictures that we uploaded. This will be the first set of pictures in the start of a new collection… our 2009 renovations! Yup, this is the first step in a mini-renovation which will see us giving the kitchen a facelift. Read on for a bit more about the process and where we’re going with this.

It all started with an innocent-enough letter sent to us by Francis Home Environment a couple weeks back. The letter opened with the fantastic question stating “How can you invest in a new $5,501 ENERGY STAR rated furnace for $1,439? And save 50% on your energy bills?” Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? Well, ever the skeptic, I knew that it was clearly too good to be true, and the fine print basically stated that in order to take advantage of the offer, you had to buy an air conditioner at full price. In other words, the full amount of the discounts was based on the fact that you would also get a pile of money back on the air conditioner, but that money was being funneled towards the marketing of the furnace price. Well, fair enough I guess. It really wouldn’t make sense to get the furnace that cheap. I’d have to assume there was a problem with it, or you’d have to be ‘traded up’ to a better model upon closer inspection.

The good part of all this however, is that the system on offer truly is the top of the line models. So while the price would still end up being pretty high, it was definitely less than what we would have paid for it normally. Basically, we’d be getting the high-end system for the mid-end price. As a bonus to mother nature, the new furnace we were going to put in should consume much less natural gas than the older model. We were jumping for a 75% or so efficiency to 94.1%. The conservative estimates from the sales fellow pegged us at saving over $330 per year in fuel and energy costs. How nice is that? The other bonus? Well, we sized the furnace and A/C to be big enough to handle a renovation that would give us a second floor. However, due to the way the furnace works (2-stage), it wouldn’t make things any more expensive to operate.

Although we hadn’t planned on making this purchase, we’d been told on a couple occasions that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to upgrade the HVAC at some point soon, as our system might die at any minute. That thought really didn’t get us very excited. We figured that by investing now in this, we wouldn’t have a surprise cost in the future. Couple that with the great rebates, and the current home renovation tax credit, and it seems like a no-brainer. Oh yeah, and did I mention that the service included a full home eco-audit as well? Yup, we would get a full report on where our house stands as far as energy efficiency. Funny story about that too. We got our numbers back and were told that the average home like ours rates around 57%. Us? 0%. Believe me, that is currently under protest, as it would mean we live outdoors. The audit folks think there was a software problem. Either way, I’m sure the return visit will yield an impressive improvement in the numbers 🙂

For those of you curious about the various rebates that we are eligible for, here’s a high-level breakdown by agency. From Enbridge: $100 for furnace, $15 for new thermostat. From Ontario Power Authority: whole pile of stuff for a total of $550. From Federal government: $150 towards eco-audit, $500 for furnace, $200 for A/C. From Provincial government: $500 for furnace, $200 for A/C. Total rebates: $2,215.

Apart from getting a new furnace and A/C, we also opted to get an upgraded filtration system (5″) which should cut down on dust and dog hair issues. We also paid to get the ducts fully cleaned, and got them to throw in the installation of a water pump to properly drain the units to the laundry room sing, and also install 2 new cold air returns in the basement. When the last owners renovated the basement, they had never bothered to put in the cold air returns, which help keep the whole house at an even temperature, rather than a cold basement / warm 2nd floor and vice versa when you run the fan. Should make the house more comfortable overall.

As far as installation day goes, we got lucky again. Since things are so slow right now for the installers, we actually had two different crews at our house working, which cut down the install time. They were done by around 2:30 in the afternoon, rather than the normal 6pm time for a full install. They worked well together, with each of the four guys taking on different tasks like running the pipes, setting up the gear, testing everything, doing the rough-in work, etc. I stayed home for the day to keep an eye on things and ask and answer the various questions. Good thing I did, because we had to change a number of things on the fly throughout the day.

Overall impressions of these guys was very favourable. They did a good job with the installation, as well as their clean-up at the end of the day. I asked them to make sure the routing of all the different pipes would be neat and tidy, and also asked to move around the location of a few things. They had no problem accommodating me, and were very nice about it all too. The finished product is much cleaner looking than the old furnace, and just knowing that this thing will be worry-free for at least 10 years is a load off our minds.

Hmmm, looks like this post is getting longer than it really needs to be, so let’s just say everything turned out great for our new install. Next up: renovating the kitchen with new counters, new floor, and new appliances. I’ll keep you updated, and upload plenty of pictures. Still have to firm up an electrician, but that’s coming together as well. Till, then, later. Oh yeah, and my next post will be more fun, I promise, since it’ll probably be about me racing in the Canadian National Snowshoe Championships!

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