Sometimes, I ask a question and I have a good hunch of what the right answer is going to be. Today's article is not a such a case. As I write this article, I don't know where it will go. That's very different from most of my articles.
In my last article, I wrote about how I got a recently energy assessment. One of the things I learned is that we have a 24-year old furnace.
I had been told that the furnace was old before, but it was so clean (perhaps because it is a natural gas furnace), I thought that the company might have been trying to snow me on buying a new system that I didn't need. It turns out they were right.
While the furnace works fine, it is in only about 60% efficient according to the estimates. There are systems that are 95% efficient today. So it would seem like nearly a third of my heating bill could be avoided by replacing the furnace. It's probably a little less since we use gas for cooking and laundry.
Looking at my average bill, that's a savings of around $45/mo. It may not seem like much, but that's like getting free HBO, free Netflix, and a still having money left over for a monthly pizza.
Right next to the furnace is the water heater. It looks much newer, but the estimate is that it is just about as efficient (or inefficient) as our furnace. Now that I think about it, we use gas for the water heater, so to save the full $45 a month, we'd probably have to replace both.
And that's where the question comes in. If you've got working equipment, is it worth replacing it to make it more efficient? The answer would require an estimate for the cost of the new equipment. Unfortunately that's not something I've had the time to look into.
While we could replace the older furnace and not the water heater, I've heard there are combined systems that might be cheaper. Perhaps, just as important as saving money, would be saving space. As the kids grow, I think finishing the basement is going to look more and more attractive. That's going to go a lot smoother if we don't have big water heaters taking up all the room.
If I had to estimate how much the new heating systems would cost, I'd go with $15,000. That seems like a lot of money to spend to save a little more than $500 a year in more efficient fuel usage, right? Part of it is that the cost of natural gas is low enough that even being inefficient isn't a huge deal.
The wild card in all this is the energy company has some incentives, like rebates and interest-free loans to spread the cost over several years. That's definitely something to look into, but I'm expecting that the savings won't cover the cost.
The situation reminds me of one where you have a car that isn't fuel efficient. It's rarely worth it to scrap a working car. Instead, the most cost-effective thing to do is drive it into the ground. That's my hunch here.
Readers, what do you think?
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