Last weekend a good friend stopped by to visit us. And she had fantastic shoes. I wanted some too! I knew that they would be expensive, but I figured that I could fit them into the budget and after a few months we wouldn’t even remember spending the money. But then I thought about the furnace upgrade we’re in the middle of doing, and about how we’re working so hard to pay off our mortgage and live debt-free here on our mini farm. And then I thought about clutter. That was actually what convinced me that I don’t need those shoes after all. I’ve recently pared my shoe collection down to a total of 10 pairs, plus winter boots, hiking boots, and snowshoe boots. That’s down from about 20 pairs that I had before I started purging stuff. And what I really like – more than a great new pair of shoes – is a nice clean closet without a lot of stuff in it. I already have two pairs of flip flops and a couple other summer style shoes… I don’t need any more. All of my current shoes (except running shoes) should easily last for another few years. And since I don’t want to add to my shoe collection, I really have no reason to be thinking about shoes at all. There. See? I talked myself out of spending $90 and adding something I don’t need to my closet. Feels good!
Now about that furnace… That is our big expense of the summer. Well, that and central air conditioning. We decided that we wanted to have air conditioning installed after spending a good part of last summer melting. Our number one criteria for a new system was energy efficiency. But we soon found out that the efficiency of the air conditioning would be limited by the efficiency of our current furnace, as the two systems are linked together. Our furnace is only 11 years old – definitely not ancient – but it’s 80% efficient, and has a single stage fan (basically, it’s always blowing at 100% capacity). So 20% of the energy from the natural gas the furnace burns is venting to the outside, and the fan is drawing more electricity than really needed to keep the house comfortable. Replacing the furnace with a new 95% efficient, two-stage model would increase the SEER rating on our air conditioner from 13.7 to 16 (thus qualifying it for the federal tax credit). It would also mean that only 5% of our natural gas consumption would be wasted, as opposed to 20% with our existing furnace. And the new furnace will use about one fifth of the electricity of the old one for the fan. We found this website to be very helpful while we were working on our pros/cons list regarding the furnace upgrade.
In addition, there are a boatload of rebates available to help pay for the high-efficiency furnace. We’ll have to fork over almost $4000 for the furnace and $3000 for the air conditioner, but we’ll end up getting nearly $3000 in rebates from our state, the federal government, our electricity company, our gas company, and from the furnace manufacturer. We’ll put the old furnace on Craigs List so that someone with an older, less efficient furnace can upgrade theirs too.
Because we’re going to have to pay upfront for everything and then wait for the rebates to come in, we’ll have to skip paying extra on our mortgage in August, and basically not spend money on anything other than food for a couple months. But we’re ok with that. The new furnace will make our air conditioner much more efficient, and our heating will be more efficient in the winter too. Once the rebates and tax credits show up, we’ll only have spent about a thousand dollars more to have the air conditioner and the new furnace than we would have spent to just get the air conditioner. And if our calculations are correct, the amount we’ll save in natural gas and electricity usage will be about $250/year. So in four years, the furnace will have paid for itself. After that, it will start paying us back.
Anybody else made the decision to put in a new, higher efficiency furnace, even when your current furnace was still working just fine? It wasn’t an easy decision for us, but that’s what we came up with.