10 Things Your Probably Did Not Know About Your Furnace

With the low temperatures facing Florida, many of us are opting to stay inside and avoid the cold – and with the aid of our furnaces, we are able to do just that!

Here are 10 facts you might not know about furnaces, including where the name “furnace” comes from.

  1. Furnaces are the most popular way to heat homes. Most homes in the United States are heated by furnaces. Furnaces work by sending warmed air through your home’s duct system. It is likely that your furnace is a part of your air conditioning or HVAC system. Furnaces commonly run off of natural gas, oil, electricity, or in some cases, sometimes a combination. Natural gas run furnaces are the most economical, saving you as much as 30 percent compared to electric.
  2. Furnaces have been around for a long time. Longer than you may even think! Back in 1200 BC, the Romans are the first known civilization to have used any type of warm-air heating system. They called it a “hypocaust”, and it worked by pumping heated air through their walls and floors, which in turn warmed up the rooms. Later, 13th century Cistercian monks came up with a central heating system that used indoor wood-fire furnaces to heat water that had been diverted from nearby rivers.
  3. Furnaces help keep your pipes from freezing. Although this may not be a common concern for most Floridians, when the outdoors hits freezing temperatures, the water lines in a home can freeze within three days. With warm air passing through your ducts, however, will help to reduce the risk of this happening.
  4. Humidity affects how you feel, even at the same temperature. Many new thermostats these day will allow you to adjust the humidity levels in your home. A low humidity level will cause your home to feel colder than its measured temperature, while a high humidity level will actually cause your home to feel warmer than its measured temperature. So, adjust your humidity levels if you can’t bring yourself to adjust the temperature.
  5. Furnaces have three main parts. Aside from general parts like filters, fittings, or ductwork, all furnaces contain these three main components that allow it to warm your home:
    1. A burner or a heating element: This is how the heat is created;
    2. A heat exchanger: This component separates the combustion gas (that makes the heat) from breathable air; and
    3. A blower: Sends the breathable air through the duct system in the house.
  6. Furnaces have long lives. Conventional and mid-efficiency furnaces typically will last about 18-25 years and high efficiency furnaces will usually last about 15-20 years. The lifespan can be affected by certain factors such as usage or proper maintenance.
  7. The “Stack Effect”. The Stack Effect principle describes how air moves through a building based on the concept that heat rises. During winter months, the warm air inside the building is less dense than the cold air outside, so it rises or sits at the top. This is why a basement or bottom floor is usually colder than the attic or the highest floor. Homes or buildings that are not sealed properly are more likely to lose their warm air and will see a higher energy bill as their furnace works harder to replace this lost air.
  8. The Brits don’t have a “furnace” in their home. In Britain, the term “furnace” only refers to the industrial metallurgical furnaces that are used for smelting iron ore, lead, or copper (what we commonly refer to as “blast furnaces”). Instead, the British call their heating systems, “central heating”.
  9. The word “furnace” has Greek origins. It is derived from the Greek word “fornax” which means oven.
  10. They really do require maintenance. As with any working system, parts wear down and eventually need replacing, an air filter especially. Furnaces may need extra attention in the south, where they get sporadic use. Sitting for a long time can stiffen parts and scheduling proper maintenance can help keep the parts of your furnace lubricated and ready for use.

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