We just replaced our furnace. The old one gave up after 17 years, three years short of filling the 20-year warranty. Even so, I figure it didn’t owe us anything.
I sit in the living room now and try to feel the difference between the old unit’s 80 percent efficiency and the new one’s 93 percent efficiency. I can’t tell anything yet, but they tell me it will show up in lower heating bills.
To be blunt, concern over a modern furnace’s efficiency seems ridiculous in light of how we heated our home back in the dark ages of my youth.
We had a wood-burning stove back then. It was at least 120 percent efficient within a five-foot radius, singeing our socks if we got too close, while barely melting the frost on the other side of the room. Ditto for the fuel oil stove that graced our home later.
When we finally moved into a house that had central heating, we didn’t know how to behave. Suddenly I could get dressed in my own bedroom rather than scampering into the living room and slipping red-faced into my BVDs behind the stove while everybody, including my sister, watched and smirked.
This marvelous furnace sat in the cellar, burned coal, erupted periodically with burps of black smoke and soot, and had to be stoked with a shovel several times a day. On weekends it had to be cleaned of ashes and cinders by hand.
Dad shoveled the coal. I handled the ashes. After six days the ash pit was always full. It also had smoldering embers that burned holes in my jeans and put blisters on my hands. It was hard, dirty work.
But whenever I felt like complaining, I remembered that I no longer had to get dressed in front of my dumb old sister.