WE'RE OPEN AND READY TO HELP! Safety is our top priority. Learn more about our COVID-19 response.

By David Daher / in , , , , , /

Our homeowners out in Golden Valley, MN were in a tight spot, but they did the right thing: They called Freedom Heating and Air Conditioning for a second opinion.

We got a call about a possible furnace replacement in their rambler-style home. Another company said it had a cracked heat exchanger, and they red tagged the unit. That meant it was unsafe to operate the unit.

Now, our homeowners didn’t have any heat in the middle of the winter. That makes for one of the toughest situations a homeowner faces. They’d have to make a quick decision on a significant investment.

Of course, we wanted to get their heat back up and running as soon as possible. But, we couldn’t take any chances with their safety. And, they needed to feel comfortable with how they spent their money. Understandably, they had a lot of questions about the whole situation.

And, of course, we made sure we answered all their questions. Then, we looked at their options. In the end, we found a way to keep them safe while also saving them some money on their new HVAC system.

Problem: Another HVAC company red tagged the furnace in a Golden Valley, MN rambler home. That meant they needed a furnace replacement. The homeowners came to us for a second opinion.

Solution: We confirmed their unit was unsafe. Then, we installed a new Ameristar variable-speed heater. The homeowners were eligible for a rebate and now spend less each month on their heating bill.

What Does a Red Tagged Furnace Mean?

A red tagged furnace means an HVAC company has determined your unit is unsafe to operate. They shut it down, and only they or another certified company can start it up again. But, they would do that only if they determine later on that it’s safe to use. Most times, you end up having to replace the unit.

There are a few reasons why this can happen. Sometimes, there’s a blocked flue vent or an issue with the duct system.

These problems that the unit can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide, or CO2, in the house. It’s a colorless, odorless gas, which makes it impossible to notice unless you have detectors in the house.

According to the CDC, there are around 20,000 emergency room visits every year due to carbon monoxide poisonings. On top of that, we see approximately 4,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths every year. It’s why we shut down a unit once there’s a risk of this happening.

In this case, the problem was a cracked heat exchanger. That’s the part of the system responsible for actually heating up the air. However, that process produces carbon monoxide.

Usually, the CO2 gets expelled through the exhaust system. If the part is cracked, however, it leaks into the house.

The problem is, you can’t see the break. It’s deep inside the unit. One of the only ways you can figure it out is when a technician measures for CO2 levels and discovers a large concentration of it.

Unfortunately, out homeowners discovered the problem in the middle of the winter. And, it gets pretty cold out near Medicine Lake. We needed to get them up and running quickly.  

What Causes a Cracked Heat Exchanger?

The next big question was, what causes a cracked heat exchanger? Typically, this happens when the unit overheats. That stresses the inner parts until they break. This can occur when:

  • The air filter is clogged
  • The vents in your home are blocked.
  • The unit is too big for the house

What happens with all three of these is that the air doesn’t circulate properly in the house. When this happens, it backs up into the unit.

That often triggers it to start blowing cold air. This way, parts don’t get damaged from the excessive heat. But, you don’t want it to happen too often. Then, the sudden shifts from hot to cold to hot again weaken the exchanger.

Fortunately, the first two are pretty easy to fix. For starters, you should replace the air filter at least every three months. Each one costs around $10. And, all you have to do is slide out the old one and put in a clean filter. Next, you just need to make sure you’re not blocking any vents.

Unfortunately, however, the culprit here was most likely an oversized unit. Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to HVAC.

Sure, a stronger unit warms the house really fast. But, it produces so much heat so quickly that there’s nowhere for it to go. That’s when it backs up into the system.

We see this problem more often than we should. Usually, a previous company didn’t measure the house correctly and recommended a unit that was way too big. The one in this house was there when our homeowners bought the place.

Now, at least, they felt a little better once they understood what was going on. Our homeowners wanted to know it wouldn’t just happen to them again. They were ready to look for a new model.

Saving Money on a Furnace Replacement in Golden Valley, MN

A furnace replacement is a big investment no matter what. You’re looking at the cost of a new unit plus the installation. That’s thousands of dollars. And, you want one that lasts for years.

Our homeowners in Golden Valley went with a variable-speed heater. They saved money on it up front, and it uses less energy than their older model. And, it can help prevent another problem like the one they had before.

A variable speed, or two-speed, model has two levels of heating output: low and high. That’s different from traditional models. Those are either on or off. There’s no in-between.

What this means is that it’s not always working at full capacity. In fact, it stays in low mode about 80 percent of the time.

As a result, it’s less likely the system will get backed up and overheat. It’s a huge reduction in the chance of another cracked heat exchanger. That was a big weight off our homeowner’s shoulders.

And, there were a few other benefits. For starters, these models use a lot less energy than older ones. The unit we replaced had an 80 percent efficiency rating. That meant 20 percent of the fuel it used just got burned off in the exhaust.

The new Ameristar model, however, has a 97 percent efficiency rating. That equals less gas our homeowners use every month. The less they use, the less they pay for.

Up front, we also helped chip away at the installation cost. West Metro homeowners can get rebates from local energy companies when they install energy-efficient appliances. Between Xcel Energy and Center Point Energy, they got $510 in rebates.

End of the day, our homeowners weren’t happy at all about suddenly having to invest in a new heater. But, they feel more comfortable knowing their new one is much less likely to have the same problem. And, they’ll spend less money on their energy bills in the future.

Are you ready to replace your heater? Or, do you have questions about furnace replacement? Contact us, and we’ll help you find a new model that’s right for your home and budget!

Leave Comments

Schedule a Service: