What Size Furnace Should I Get?

A Guide to Choosing the Right Size of Furnace

When having a new furnace installed, it is vital that the unit you choose is the right size for your home. Many people wrongly believe that the bigger a furnace is, the better it will work. Unfortunately, this simply isn't the case as numerous issues can result if the furnace is either oversized or undersized. It is always best to have a certified HVAC technician calculate what size of furnace your home needs, but here is an overview of how you can at least get a rough estimate of what size of unit you need on your own.

Calculating Your Home's Square Footage

The first thing you will need to do is calculate exactly how many square feet your home is, not including your garage or anywhere else that isn't connected to your heating system. If you're unsure of how many square feet your home is, you will need to calculate the square footage of all of your rooms and then add these together to determine the total square footage. To calculate square footage, measure the length and width of each room and then multiply the two to find square feet.

Why Climate Zone Is Important

Calculating your home's square footage is important as your furnace will need to produce so many BTUs (British thermal units) of heat for every square foot, and exactly how many BTUs per square foot are needed is determined by what part of the country you live in. The U.S. Department of Energy separates the country into seven different climate zones, and each zone has its own BTU requirements. These requirements are based on an estimate of how cold it can get in the winter. The colder the winter temperatures are, the more BTUs of heating you need per square foot.

Plainfield and the entire Chicago area are in Zone 5. In this zone, the general recommendation is that you need somewhere between 45 and 55 BTUs of heating for every square foot. If you have a 1,500-square-foot home, your furnace would usually need to produce somewhere between 67,500 and 82,500 BTUs to effectively and efficiently heat your house.

How HVAC Technicians Size a Furnace

HVAC technicians will always start by calculating square footage and BTU requirements based on your climate zone. However, these two factors alone aren't enough to ensure that the furnace is the appropriate size as there are numerous other factors that will also affect how much heating you need.

One of the most important factors is how well-insulated your home is. Especially important is the level of insulation in your attic and basement or crawl space as these are the areas that will let the most heat out and the most cold air in. If your home is poorly insulated or has lots of air leaks, you will need a much larger furnace than you would in a home that was well-insulated and sealed up tight. If the level of insulation isn't accounted for, then you may not end up with a big enough furnace, and your home will always stay colder.

Another important consideration is the number, type, size, and location of all doors and windows in the home. The more windows you have and the larger they are, the bigger your furnace will need to be as windows always let in cold air. You will also need a larger furnace if your home has old single-pane windows than you would if all of the windows were double- or triple-pane.

Window location is also important since this plays a role in how much heat gain you get during the day through your windows. South-facing windows will let in the most heat while you get almost no heat gain from north- and east-facing windows. West-facing windows also contribute to more heat gain since they receive lots of light in the afternoon when the sun is hottest. Homes with lots of south- and west-facing windows will often need a slightly smaller furnace than the same size home with more east- and north-facing windows due to the amount of heat that they let in.

The amount of direct sunlight or shade that your home gets throughout the day is also important. If you have lots of tall trees surrounding your home, you will often need a larger furnace since your house will get less heat gain from the sun.

When determining what size of furnace or other HVAC unit is needed, HVAC technicians always perform something known as a Manual J calculation. This calculation figures in not only square footage and climate zone but also windows, insulation, age and condition of the ductwork, how many people live in or occupy the building, and any other factors that can affect how well your heating system works and how much heat is needed.

Issues Caused By Oversized and Undersized Furnaces

If your furnace is too small, it won't produce enough heat at a time to effectively raise the temperature of your home. This means that your heating system will need to run for much longer times and your energy bills will be much higher. A properly sized furnace will usually perform two heating cycles an hour. Depending on how cold it is outside, each cycle will usually last for anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes.

If your furnace is undersized, each heating cycle could take an hour or more, and your heating will often only ever shut off for 10 or so minutes before the next cycle starts. This means your home will often feel cold, your heating costs will be higher, and your heating system will experience much more wear and tear. The fact that undersized furnaces will get far more use means they also typically have a much shorter life expectancy.

Oversized furnaces can also create numerous issues. For starters, you will be paying far more for the unit than you really need to since it is bigger than what you need, and your energy bills will be higher since the furnace will burn more gas at a time.

Another issue with oversized furnaces is that they frequently do something known as short cycling. This is when the furnace shuts off before it completes its heating cycle, i.e. before it has raised the indoor temperature to what your thermostat is set to.

Short cycling usually occurs because the furnace is overheating. If a furnace is oversized, it will usually produce more heat at a faster rate than your blower fan can handle. If the blower fan isn't circulating enough air, lots of the heat will remain inside the furnace and can quickly cause it to overheat. Overheating will lead to the furnace automatically shutting down before it has had time to fully heat the building.

Oversized furnaces will typically break down much more frequently and suffer from more serious issues that require expensive repairs. If a furnace is oversized, its life expectancy is often not even half of what it would be otherwise. A properly sized furnace should last for 15 years or more, whereas an oversized furnace may need to be replaced after just five to seven years.

If you're not sure what size or type of furnace you need, TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is here to help. We are experts in furnace installation and will perform all of the necessary calculations to ensure you get the right size of unit for your home. We also install air conditioners, boilers, mini-splits, UV air purifiers, and air handlers, and we can assist with any heating or cooling repairs and maintenance as well. In addition, we offer a range of residential plumbing services for residents in Plainfield and the Chicago area. To schedule a furnace installation consultation or any other service, give us a call today.

What Is A MERV Rating?

What Is A MERV Rating And What It Means To You

Every home contains pollutants that compromise indoor air quality. Unwanted dirt, dust, and microorganisms may be too small for the eye to see, but they significantly impact the quality of the air we breathe.

It is estimated that we spend nearly 70 percent of our day indoors. As such, we need to be mindful of the quality of the air that we have circulating through homes, office buildings, and even schools. An efficient HVAC system with quality filters can do wonders for improving the quality of the indoor air you and your family breathe.

Your HVAC Filter

Air filters are needed in HVAC systems in order to remove allergens and other harmful pollutants from the air that is circulating throughout your home. Filters become dirty and saturated over time; they need to be replaced at regular intervals to ensure that your indoor air stays fresh and clean. Dirty filters can continue to circulate the very same debris that was previously trapped when the filter was clean, resulting in a HVAC system that circulates dirty air through the rooms in your home.

Selecting The Right Filter For Your Home

Filter shopping can be frustrating if you don't know what to look for. Looking for a MERV rating that is in keeping with your needs and household demand will not only make your HVAC system more efficient, but it will give you the quality indoor air that you are looking to provide for your loved ones. Read on to see how MERV ratings are determined and what you should be looking for when you purchase air filters for your HVAC system.

How The MERV Rating Works

The MERV rating system ranges from a score of 1 to 20. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values. In general, the higher the rating on an air filter, the more efficiently it can remove harmful particulates from the air that you breathe. Most homes only require a MERV rating of 8 or higher to yield high-quality results. Anything rated under a 5 would be insufficient in being able to provide clean, breathable air. On the other hand, MERV ratings that are too high can significantly impact the performance of a standard residential heating and cooling system.

How Ratings Are Determined

HVAC filters go through an extensive testing process to determine their MERV rating. Miniscule particles are sprayed a number of times through filters and then counted on the other side. The worst test score involving all test sessions results in the MERV rating. This is meant to be a standard measure of the minimum efficiency of a product.

What Do Various MERV Ratings Filter Out?

MERV ratings have a significant impact on what a filter is capable of trapping from indoor air. A good snapshot of filtration capabilities is as follows:

  • Rated 1-4: Pollen, dust mites, sanding and spray paint dust, textile, and carpet fibers
  • Rated 5-8: Mold spores, hairspray, fabric protectors, dusting chemicals, cement dust
  • Rated 9-12: Legionella, humidifier dust, lead dust
  • Rated 13-16: Bacteria, tobacco smoke
  • Rated 17-20: Viruses, carbon dust, combustion smoke

More explanation of filtration capabilities takes into account factors such as dust spot efficiency and arrestance. Dust spot efficiency refers to a filter's ability to remove atmospheric dust from the air, while arrestance indicates the ability of any filter to remove injected standard dust from test air. Arrestance is typically calculated as a percentage relationship according to weight.

The Connection Between MERV and Indoor Air Quality

Consequences of poor indoor air quality include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Allergies
  • Asthma and respiratory distress
  • Skin conditions
  • Nausea

As you can see, it would be easy for poor indoor air quality to significantly reduce your and your family's quality of life over time if not properly monitored and corrected. Changing or upgrading your filter will protect your home and your loved ones from the discomfort and damage that poor air quality will cause.

MERV Ratings and Energy Efficiency

Standard home HVAC systems generally need filters with MERV ratings ranging from 8 to 13 in order to optimize function and performance. Your system will have to push air through tiny holes in this filter, causing it to increase its energy usage to circulate air throughout your home effectively. One might think that it's a good idea to purchase a MERV rating of higher than 13, thinking that you're getting better air quality as a result. In actuality, you may be damaging your system. Most residential HVAC systems are only designed to handle a certain amount of forced filtration while maintaining optimal function. A rating of 8 and 13 is designed to work well with your existing system to provide good air quality without compromising your system or causing drastic changes to your energy consumption and bills.

How Your Filter Affects Your System

Most manufactured HVAC systems are built with recommended filters and MERV ratings in mind. Using a substandard filter or one that costs less could result in expensive repair and replacement problems for your unit. Filters that are inefficient in clearing out particulates will create a backlog of dust, dirt, and debris that circulates through mechanical components and ductwork, causing your system to work harder than it should. Your HVAC efficiency drops at the same time that energy prices skyrocket. Both situations will result in early system breakdown and expensive repairs that can be avoided.

What MERV Rating Filter Should You Buy?

The best course of action is to read your HVAC system owner's manual to find out what your recommended MERV filter rating should be for system optimization. The number of people and pets, along with any pre-existing health conditions, should be taken into account when choosing a filter in the range indicated in the owner manual for your home.

Having questions about choosing the right filter is understandable; a qualified HVAC technician will have the knowledge needed to provide you with expert advice on choosing the ideal filter for your system and for your family's health.

Change Filters Regularly For a Cleaner Home

A side benefit of maintaining your air filters is a cleaner home. A clean filter will catch dust and debris that would normally land on your furniture, carpets, and countertops. Making changing your filters a part of your routine can reduce the amount of time you need to spend vacuuming, washing, and dusting and will result in a cleaner household.

TR Miller: Expert Service, Every Time

TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing has qualified and caring HVAC professionals ready to serve all of your heating, cooling, and plumbing needs. Serving Plainfield and the surrounding areas for nearly three generations, we pride ourselves on providing the best service that ultimately yields your comfort and satisfaction. Our various services include drain cleaning, plumbing repair and replacement, heating and cooling installation and repair, and boiler service for both residential and commercial properties. Expect on-call service, cutting-edge technology, and no-nonsense pricing on all of our repair, maintenance, and installation services. We care about your comfort, and we're ready to serve you! Contact TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today for more information on how we can improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your home in any season.

7 Signs Your Water Heater Needs Repair

Water heaters are a frequently overlooked appliance. Unless your faucets are suddenly spouting ice-cold water, you might not notice that anything is wrong. However, there can be a lot going on behind the scenes. Most water heaters fail slowly, and there can be some subtle warning signs that something is happening. If you want to catch any water heater problems as soon as possible, you need to keep an eye out for these potential problems.

1. Weird Smells Coming From Your Water Fixtures

If you notice a strange smell in your home, your water heater is probably the last place you'll check. However, it can actually be the source of many unpleasant odors. A smell like rotten eggs, metal, or sulfur can indicate that something is going wrong. If you realize that these odors occur every time you use hot water, it's time to check out your tank.

Inside every water heater is an anode rod that's meant to slow corrosion. However, certain types of anaerobic bacteria that may cause unusual smells in your water tank can interact poorly with the anode rod material. If you don't want the rod to break down too quickly, you need to act fast. To address the issue, homeowners will need to both clean their entire tank and replace their anode rod.

2. Signs of Water Damage Near Your Heater

If your tank is older or damaged, leaks can eventually occur. However, a leaking water tank isn't always as obvious as a giant stream of water spouting out from the container. Many tank leaks develop slowly, so you might just have a few drops of water seeping out. In addition to puddles or damp spots near the tank, you need to keep an eye out for more subtle signs.

Any smell of dampness, mildew or mold around the tank can be a sign of abnormal humidity. Leaks can also look like discolored patches on the ground or walls near the tank. Though a leaky water heater sounds ominous, it's sometimes fairly easy to address. You may just need a technician to replace a few valves or patch a seam.

3. Hot Water That Never Seems to Last

Not all water heaters quit heating water when they need maintenance. In some cases, damage to your tank just causes your heater to heat less water or heat it more slowly. When this happens, you'll find that your hot water runs out quickly. Though you may have plenty of warm water when you turn on a faucet, you might notice that it's getting cold after a single shower.

There are a few different problems that can cause this issue. In very old tanks, the issue can simply be sediment buildup. Sediment accumulates slowly in your tank from all the minerals within your water. If you don't flush your tank regularly, it can end up taking up space that should've been used to store hot water. You can also have problems if the burners in your water heater are broken. Though they can still warm water, they might not be transferring heat as efficiently as they used to.

4. Gritty or Discolored Water

Corrosion is an inevitable problem in any hot water heater tank. A sacrificial anode rod is supposed to attract all the corrosion within the tank. However, if you don't replace the anode rod once it is fully corroded, the corrosive minerals in the water will start eating away at your tank. Once your tank is rusting, your water will start to look a little strange.

Typically, a corroding tank will cause water to look rusty or muddy. You might also see small chunks of sediment that make your water feel gritty. When this happens, you need to act fast. Getting a plumber to replace your anode rod and fix any corroded spots will keep your tank from experiencing further damage.

5. Water That Feels Unpleasantly Hot

Not all broken water heaters cause chilly water. In some cases, a broken water heater can actually become too hot. If your water is scalding hot even when your temperature settings are low, something is malfunctioning within your unit. The piping hot water can end up making your whole unit break because various components degrade faster at high heat levels.

An overheated water heater is typically due to problems like a stuck valve or a faulty thermostat. In some cases, it can also mean that your heating element is failing and is stuck in an "on" position. Whatever the cause, this problem needs to be addressed as soon as you can. Not only can overheating break your tank, but it's also dangerous. Members of your household can face unpleasant burns when your water heater is too hot.

6. Weird Sounds Coming From Your Water Heater

Every functioning water heater makes a noise now and then. As the burners turn on and off, you might hear some cracks. It's also normal to hear small gurgles as water moves in and out of the tank. However, any abnormal sounds are cause for concern. If you are hearing crackling, popping, or banging, you should get your tank checked.

Most strange sounds come from sediment accumulation. When there is too much sediment, your water heater can make a sizzling or crackling noise as it heats up. Sometimes, it can even cause mini explosions that sound like a loud knock or pop. Other times, sounds may be caused by a problem with your pressure-reducing valve. Imbalanced pressure levels can lead to ticking or even whistling.

7. Water That's Never Hot Enough

A lukewarm shower can be more than a mild inconvenience. If your water heater used to warm up just fine but your hot water suddenly feels lackluster, it can be a sign that something's wrong. In some cases, the issue is just that your temperature settings were adjusted incorrectly. However, when your water still feels a little cool on the highest setting, something else is going wrong.

It is possible that a heating element is starting to die, but in many cases, there is another culprit. Sometimes, it just means that a coat of sediment is covering your heating element. Lukewarm water is also frequently caused by a broken dip tube. The dip tube is supposed to help fresh, cold water circulate in the tank properly. If it breaks, cold water can flow out before it is fully warmed. Fortunately, repairing a dip tube is usually quick and affordable.

Local Experts at Your Service

If you notice any of these warning signs, it's essential to seek help as soon as possible. Getting your water heater fixed promptly can prevent small issues from turning into major problems, and nobody wants to live without hot water for an extended period of time. At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we are happy to provide water heater maintenance and repair solutions. Our plumbers will examine your system, explain what's wrong, and offer affordable options for correcting it. In fact, we provide a complete range of plumbing services. Our technicians also perform expert heating, cooling, and indoor air quality equipment installation, repair, and maintenance throughout the Plainfield, IL area. To learn more about all we offer, contact us at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today.

How to Determine What Size Water Heater My Home Needs?

Tips for Choosing the Right Size Water Heater for Your Home

Sizing a water heater for your Plainfield, Illinois, home is not always easy. Your water heater will last a decade or more, representing a sizable financial investment. You want to avoid the common mistakes people make when sizing their water heater so that you can have sufficient hot water for your home for years to come.

Avoiding Common Mistakes When Sizing a Water Heater for Your Home

A common mistake homeowners make when they try to size a water heater for their home is over-sizing or under-sizing it.

If you undersize your water heater, you will run out of hot water as you shower, wash your laundry, or do other daily activities. For example, a 30-gallon water heater for a family of five is generally considered to provide 50% of the water heating capacity you need.

Getting a unit that is too big means you will waste a lot of energy heating water you will not use. For example, 60 gallons of water for a family of two is about one-third more water heating capacity than you need. Getting a unit that is too big means you will spend hundreds of dollars on the unit itself and waste valuable space in your home.

The key to avoiding these mistakes is having your water heater sized adequately by experienced HVAC and plumbing professionals like TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. Our team will meet with you, evaluate your water heating needs, and help you find a unit that will work well for you today and for years.

Factors to Consider When Sizing a Water Heater

Because of how important it is for you to get the right size water heater, you want to consider all the factors that affect hot water use in your home. This includes the size of the home or building you need hot water for, the number of people in the family or the number of people occupying the building, and your estimated peak hot water hourly demand.

You must be familiar with water heater capacity and peak hour hot water demand. This will make it easier for you to understand tables with water heater sizes based on building occupancy.

What Is Water Heater Capacity Rating?

Water heating capacity rating is a critical metric that helps technicians adequately size the water heater for your home or commercial building. You may see 30-gallon, 50-gallon, or 60-gallon heaters, which refer to water heaters' capacity ratings, or in other words, the amount of hot water a water heater can produce within the first hour if you start with a full tank of water.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) makes it easy to identify the water heater capacity rating because they mandate that this information be included on the EnergyGuide label.

A general guideline for water heater in sizing is First Hour Rating (Heater Capacity) ≤ Peak Hour Demand (usually one hour when you shower). Your water heater should be large enough to provide one hour of hot water for a shower.

You can think about this in practical terms. Let's say in the morning, from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. that three people need to take a shower. According to US Energy Saver, a typical shower uses 20 gallons of hot water. In this scenario, you will need a 60-gallon water heater or larger.

After the first hour of usage, when the tank starts full of hot water, you have to think about other factors when determining how efficient the hot water tank would be. These include tank capacity, heat source, and size of heat source.

A water heater will produce less hot water in its second and third hours compared to its first hour, starting with a full hot water tank. For example, if you start with a 50-gallon water heater, you will enjoy 50 gallons of hot water during the first hour. However, during the second hour, depending on the heat source and the size of the heat source, you may get between 16 and 20 gallons of hot water because the heating element has to work to reheat the water in the tank.

How to Determine Your Peak Hour Demand

Determining the peak hour demand for your water heater is a crucial step. To do this, try to estimate the amount of hot water you will require when your family uses the most water. This is typically when everybody takes a shower. This is the size water heater you should purchase. You may want to add a couple of gallons for when someone might take an exceptionally long shower, etc.

Although this is not set in stone, general water heating needs based on the size of a family are as follows:

  • A family of one needs 25 gallons.
  • A family of two needs 35 gallons.
  • A family of three needs 45 gallons.
  • A family of four needs 55 gallons.
  • A family of five needs 65 gallons.
  • A family of six needs 75 gallons.

Calculating all the everyday activities that require hot water that your family engages in simultaneously is vital. For example, you can factor in 20 gallons per shower, three gallons for washing your hands, 5 gallons for brushing your teeth, 25 gallons for washing clothes in a washing machine, and around two gallons for shaving.

For example, let's say you have a family of four in a house with two bathrooms. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., three people will shower, one person will shave, and everyone will brush their teeth. During the peak hour, you have 60 gallons for the three showers, two gallons for shaving, and four gallons for brushing your teeth, which would be 64 gallons of hot water usage during peak hours.

You will need a water heater that has a minimum 64-gallon capacity. It is preferable to overshoot and get a 70-gallon water heater instead of a 60-gallon water heater. An 80-gallon heater will mean wasted space, wasted money spent on the unit, and unnecessary energy to heat water that you probably will not use.

The three fundamental principles to remember when sizing a water heater are the size of the family, the average use of hot water per person, and a baseline of 15 to 20 gallons of water for maintaining and cleaning the house. By sticking to these three basic principles, our team of technicians at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing will find the right size water heater for your home.

HVAC and Plumbing Problems Solved Right the First Time in Plainfield, Illinois

At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we are experienced HVAC technicians and plumbers who have served the greater Chicago area for nearly two decades. We are members of ACCA, and our technicians are NATE-certified. We pride ourselves on offering emergency service and straightforward pricing.

Our services include HVAC repair, installation, and maintenance. We offer radiant heating services, burst pipe repair, drain cleaning, bathroom remodeling, slab leak repair, gas leak detection, and more. Contact TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today to enjoy no-hassle service.

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