On Wednesday we had our gas-fired furnace cleaned, something that we do once a year before the heating season. After the fellow finished his cleaning regimen, he came upstairs and placed a little handheld meter on one of the heating vents and cranked the thermostat to its highest level. Checking for carbon monoxide he said, something that he started to do on his own initiative last year, since CO can be a silent killer and he thought it would be a good public service (of course, it would also be a good way to drum up business if he could sell furnaces for customers that have problems, that wasn’t lost on me). After about 10 minutes he stated quite plainly “uh-oh, looks like there’s a problem.” When I asked him what it was, he said that the meter was reading about 30 ppm (parts per million) and still climbing.
Now certainly, I don’t know what that all means, except that he’s finding it to be a major issue. So just nonchalantly, I ask what he thinks the problem is. We had a CO occurrence about 15 years ago, but at the time it turned out to be a blocked chimney, and not something that required replacing the furnace. Had the chimney cleaned, clean bill of health, bim-bam-boom done. Can’t be quite certain that this fellow has the right idea of what all is amiss. He said that he was ‘pretty sure’ it was the heat exchanger (had to look it up after he left to find out what it did!), and that they’re neither repairable or replaceable, they’re so deep in the working of the furnace that it would be cheaper just to replace the unit. Of course when I asked about a price tag, another nonchalant reply of $3000-$5000 made me blink a few times. That’s a big outlay. Now granted the furnace was in the house when we moved in, and then bought it, but before we purchased the house we had one of those businesses go through it with a fine toothed comb. The inspector gave us some issues that he discovered that the sellers hadn’t mentioned, but none of them really had to do with the heating system.
Certainly of course this is now 18 years later, and the typical furnace is supposedly only scheduled to last about 20 years. How long it was in the house before that, not really sure, of all the owners manuals and such that came with the house, none seemed to have anything to do with the main furnace. So we’re a little in the dark about that.
After talking to the wife and my pet about it, I decided to get a second opinion. The company that I called seemed to think it was a heat exchanger as well, but they didn’t recommend replacing the furnace, their recommendation was to try to replace the possible affected part. Which to me sounds like a MUCH better idea. And cheaper! So this coming Monday, they’re coming out to the house and we’re going to have it tested again. Hopefully, it can be fixed. Hopefully!
In the meantime, we’re keeping cross-ventilation going in the house so that it’s not going to be a breathing problem. We also do have CO detectors in the house, and I purchased from Home Depot a couple new ones that have digital displays. Can’t be too careful.