The recent fiscal cliff crisis in Washington, D.C., actually brought some welcome news to homeowners who upgraded their furnaces in 2012 or who plan to make that improvement in 2013.
As a result of the budget deal, Congress brought back a tax credit for upgrading to a high-efficiency furnace, which had expired at the end of 2011, retroactive to the beginning of 2012, said Rich Edwards, sales manager and partner in All-Temp HVAC in Wauconda.
"We are busy contacting our customers who made that upgrade last year, letting them know that they are now eligible for a tax credit," Edwards said.
That tax credit, along with the rebates offered by gas companies, had convinced many homeowners to update their homes' furnaces to the 90-percent efficient ones now on the market that vent through PVC piping instead of through a chimney.
"Even during the recession, people chose to make that upgrade because they knew they weren't going to be moving any time soon, due to the drop in house values, so they felt it was time to invest in a more energy-efficient and environmentally-conscious furnace," Edwards said.
Fortunately, installing a high-efficiency furnace will still be a matter of personal choice, not government decree, Edwards said. The U.S. Department of Energy recently reversed its plan from two years ago that would have, as of May 2013, required all homeowners in the northern half of the United States to replace their furnaces with 90-percent efficient ones when furnace replacement was found to be necessary. Earlier this month the department decided it would instead continue to allow homeowners to opt for the less expensive, 80-percent efficiency furnace, he said.
"While they still have that option, when you consider the fact that a homeowner will get a tax credit and that we can instantly give them the NICOR gas rebate of $250 to $500, that certainly makes up for the extra cost of the high-efficiency furnace," Edwards said.
Energy providers and the federal government have also teamed up to change the way homes are cooled. Freon R22 is being phased out and will be totally gone by 2016. A new refrigerant, 410A, which does not damage the ozone layer, is being substituted in new air conditioning units. High-efficiency air conditioners that can save homeowners 30 to 40 percent on their electric bills are also available.
"In fact, homeowners who choose to replace their furnace and air conditioner at the same time can even earn an instant energy rebate of $600. Between the energy savings, the rebate and the tax credit, we estimate that these new units will pay for themselves in about six years -- and the average life of an air conditioner is 16 years while the average life of a furnace is 20 years," Edwards said.
Besides the higher efficiency units, another development in the heating and cooling industry involves thermostats. Homeowners are opting for wireless thermostats that allow them to control their heating and cooling systems remotely through their iPhone, iPad or computer, Edwards said.
This upgraded thermostat can even use the Internet to read the local five-day forecast and adjust the home's heating and cooling accordingly.
No matter what kind of furnace you have, Edwards reminds you to check your furnace filters and change them once a month during the heating season for maximum efficiency.
Also, make sure you leave at least 30 inches of open space in front of your furnace, no matter its type, and a similar amount of space on its sides if you have an older-style, open-flame furnace. The newer ones have sealed combustion chambers that are safer and less likely to cause a fire.
All-Temp HVAC was founded 67 years ago in Palatine by Lynn Mehrholz, whose family still owns it. They moved the office to Wauconda 20 years ago and today have 30 employees. The company serves homes and businesses in a 20-mile radius of Wauconda, running from the Wisconsin border to the lake to Bartlett and Woodstock.
"Many of our customers have been with us for years. We have even replaced their furnaces once or twice over the years," Edwards said, "and we regularly maintain them. On all new installations, we send a quality inspector to the home on the second day after the installation to do a complete inspection of the new unit, to give the customer added peace of mind."
For more information about All-Temp HVAC, call (847) 526-9082 or visit www.alltemp.net.