I never imagined that buying a condo with gigantic windows and skylights would involve me pacing around trying to figure out where the outside air is sneaking in from. We went on vacation to Costa Rica in the middle of moving in, and returned to a broken furnace. The one we bought the house with had been recalled, and the HVAC people who looked at it said the home inspector should have advised us to have the sellers replace the furnace before we put down a deposit. The repairman also noted that the central AC unit must have been installed on a Friday just before quitting time. Should have known something was wrong when I noticed the inspector and the real estate agent were buddies, and would not leave each other’s sight during the inspection. So we bought a 95% efficient gas furnace, didn’t want to cut corners. Turns out in a drafty house with gigantic windows, it doesn’t make a difference, unless we have them all replaced. Of course, the furnace salesman didn’t tell us that. Should have looked online. For my new micro-blogging series, here is what I should have found online before acting, for the benefit of those of you who care:


Quick Fixes for Leaky Windows

Fill cracked panes. Nail polish to the rescue! If carefully applied, polish fills the crack almost invisibly. Once hardened, the polish will stabilize the glass until you can replace it in the spring. Or, apply clear weather-seal tape to the crack. Cost: About $4.


Apply shrink film. Applied with double-sided tape, this clear plastic sheeting shrinks drum-tight when heated with a hair dryer. The film seals off drafts and captures an insulating buffer of air. Use rubbing alcohol to help release the tape in the spring to avoid pulling off paint. Cost: $2 for a 42-by-62-inch window.

Apply V-seal weather stripping. For an easy fix, add this plastic weather stripping along the sides of the sashes. Windows can open and shut even with the V-seal in place. Cost: $5.50 per window.

Add a draft snake. If the bottom of your window leaks cold air, buy a foam-and-fabric draft snake kit. Cut the 36-inch foam tube provided to length and slip the washable cover over it. Then place the snake on the sill and shut the window on it to seal the deal. Cost: $6 per window.

Add interior storm panels. These PVC or vinyl press-in-place panels install and remove easily. You can custom fit some types yourself; more substantial types must be ordered from the manufacturer. Cost: About $12 per window for DIY kit, $100 per if ordered to size.


The Word on Reddit

My current furnace is over fifteen years old, and this brutal midwest winter has not done me any favors in hopes of getting another year out of my furnace.

I would appreciate any advice on a new furnace, primarily what questions to ask and what to know before the HVAC guy comes to my house to show me my options. I reside in a townhome and do not plan on being here for another fifteen years, so I am hoping to get the best furnace to entice future buyers but at the same time not break the bank.

Home specs: 1500 square feet Two floors, with a basement (unfinished) Bedrooms on the second floor.


I would say stay away from the Home Depot “experts” and any other contractor you get through a big box retailer. They’ll add their margin into the price of the contractor. Ask friends and neighbors for a reference, instead.


I suppose there’s not much to lose except a little time, but in our case, the quote we got from a Home Depot rep was ~22k, and the final work from a local HVAC guy was $6700, including AC. That’s a pretty big difference. Like a small car, difference.


I’m actually going through a local service that has treated me fairly over the last few years. They do free estimates that way I can see what I am getting into.


With the exception of Costco.


Did not know that. Interesting.


15 years is not exactly a long life for a furnace, are you sure you can’t get it affordably repaired? My last furnace lasted almost 30 years. With exception of the heater exchanger, everything else is pretty easily repairable.

I don’t really have much advice, Lennox is popular around here. I recently bought a Rheem and all I can say is it’s a lot noisier than the old Lennox it replaced. Oh and the best time to buy a furnace is in the off season although that’s not going to help you.

Most of the cost will be in the labor so get several quotes. I paid about $4000 for a new furnace & AC compressor about 3 years ago (1000 sq foot, 85,000 btu), and I know I probably could have gotten it about $1000 cheaper if I had kept looking around.


I do have a HVAC tech coming soon (possibly today). Getting it repaired is not out of the question, but I wanted to be prepared in case the technician has to give me the talk about how it is time to let my furnace go to the great beyond. Do you recall what level of Furnace Efficiency you got? 80%? 90%? Have you noticed any difference ($$$) if you did upgrade? Noise level is something I did not even consider. It shall go on my list of questions to ask.


In my case I went with the standard 80% model because it was an old drafty house. I would need to have new windows and doors and some major insulation improvements to have made a high efficiency furnace matter. If I remember correctly (anybody correct me if I’m wrong), HE furnaces run more but heat more slowly, so if your house leaks a lot of air, you’re going to have a hard time keeping it warm.

I didn’t notice much $$ difference in my gas bill, but in my case my AC system was much more shot and I did notice a big difference in my electric bill in the summer.

The noise matters mostly in where it’s located, if you have an unfinished basement and the furnace is tucked away down there, then noise won’t matter as much to you.

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