Plumbing With A Purpose

Plumbing With a Purpose

Is It True Gas Furnaces Don'T Heat As Well In High-Altitude Homes?

Joann Gardner

When people move to a new home, the last thing they think about is what altitude it happens to be at. However, living in a home that sits a significant distance above sea level is fraught with a number of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that your furnace may not work as well as you need it to. Here's why that is and what you can do to fix the problem.

Thin Air Doesn't Hold Heat Well

The reason why furnaces don't work as well at high altitudes is because the air is not as dense as air at sea level. To work properly, a furnace needs a precise ratio of gas and oxygen. However, because the amount of oxygen is reduced at high-altitudes, the furnace doesn't get what it needs to operate efficiently. Depending on just how high up your home is, your furnace's production can drop up to 20 percent.

Not only does this mean your home may not get as warm as you would like, but you'll also end up with higher energy bills as your appliance struggles to achieve and maintain the temperature you set. And it's not just the furnace that will have problems. Your air conditioner may also struggle to work efficiently, as well as any other appliances that require air to function (e.g. gas stoves and dryers).

Options for Combatting Reduced Furnace Efficiency

There are several things that can be done to combat this decline in efficiency, ranging from easy to difficult to expensive. The first option is to purchase a high-altitude adaptor kit and install it on your furnace. These kits contain a number of parts (e.g. springs, burner orifices, pressure switch) that you would install in your current furnace to adjust the combustion rate and other factors to make the appliance more capable of using the thin air to produce heat at an efficient rate.

The kits can be obtained at home improvement stores or from HVAC companies and typically come with instructions on how to install the parts and make the necessary adjustments in your machine, though you would still need your owner's manual to help you identify where certain parts are on your furnace. If you would prefer not to deal with this type of repair, you can always contact an HVAC professional to do it for you.

Another option is to simply purchase high-altitude furnace to replace your existing appliance. These furnaces already have the appropriate parts and have been adjusted at the factory to work in areas that are high above sea level. The benefit to going this route is you'll get a more energy efficient appliance and you won't have to make any DIY repairs to make it work like it should.

On the other hand, a new furnace can cost up to $13,000 depending on the model and features. Thus, you may only want to purse this option if you're already in the market for a new one.

A third option is to forgo the furnace altogether and have radiant heating installed. Instead of gas and air, radiating heating uses hot water to produce heat in the floors and walls to warm the rooms it's installed in. Since heat rises, the warmth from the heating will be felt sooner and longer than it would in forced air systems. Additionally, you won't have to scramble to get your slippers on so you avoid walking around on cold floors in your bare feet.

However, radiant flooring does require opening up your floors and/or walls to install. Installation costs can be as much as $9,680, so it may be a little cheaper than getting a new furnace.

For more information about getting your furnace to work in a high-altitude home, contact a local HVAC company, such as Bedell Plumbing & HVAC.


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About Me
Plumbing With A Purpose

When was the last time you realized that you had a serious plumbing problem? About a month ago, I knew that I had to make some big changes, so I began talking with different plumbers about getting the job done. I told them that I wanted to replace the bathtub in the bathroom and the sink and faucet in the kitchen, and they took my requests in stride. Before I knew it, my entire home was updated and I felt great about the work. I wanted to start this blog to help other people to learn more about plumbing and repair.