Skyrocketing natural-gas prices are prompting homeowners to opt for newer, more efficient furnaces rather than tinkering with old ones, local heating and cooling companies say.
"When there is a breakdown, even if it is a minor breakdown, and the furnace is over 15 years old, it is being replaced rather than repaired," said Duane Horst, owner of Overcashier & Horst Heating and Air Conditioning in Sylvania.
"New equipment is more efficient, and we've all seen what gas prices have done in the last five years."
As frigid air hits northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, homeowners can look for symptoms such as loud noises or the system turning on and off repeatedly to gauge whether a furnace is working properly, Mr. Horst said. Detecting carbon monoxide leaks is more difficult.
If a new furnace is necessary, most heating experts suggest hiring a licensed professional to do the work.
But Paul King a 15-year veteran of the heating and cooling business, said installing a furnace isn't too difficult and could save homeowners thousands of dollars if they can do it themselves.
The 50-year-old from Cygnet put his affinity for furnaces in writing in his recent how-to-guide for self-installers, The Furnace Book "The Heart of Your Home." The 60-page self-published manual, with photos, explains that installation should take four to eight hours.
"I call it the 'heart of your home' because, if you think about it, there's nothing more important in your home," said Mr. King, who is laid off from the Sheet Metal Workers' Local 33 union.
In Toledo, homeowners who want to install their own furnaces are required to obtain a permit and must follow the city's code. Outside contractors must be licensed to install furnaces.
Tom Kroma, Toledo's commissioner of building inspection and code enforcement, said a homeowner who wants to install a furnace himself really needs to know what he is doing.
Mr. Horst, the professional, said most homeowners do not have the technical expertise to be sure that their furnaces are properly installed.
"Our worst nightmare is the do-it-yourself installer who does not vent the furnace correctly," he said. "The bottom line is if you make a mistake, you either burn a house down, blow a house up, or you can gas your family."
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