See how your furnace can help keep your house cooler during the summer

I'm Hot - Turn On The Furnace!

by Rich Finzer

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With high energy and electricity prices, it's becoming a brutally expensive proposition to cool our homes during the summer. As an example, running a central air conditioner for a single day uses nearly the same amount of electricity as your refrigerator does for an entire month. Yikes! Fortunately for me, I've discovered a simple money-saving solution to this problem. When it gets super hot at my house, I just turn on the furnace. The furnace? Yep, you heard right. I cool my house with my oil furnace.

Some of you probably thought I meant to say heat pump, and you'd be wrong. I have a conventional oil furnace in my basement. However, that conventional furnace has one unconventional feature: it cools my home as well. Here's how it works.

First I remove the front panel from the unit and then throw a switch, which prevents the burner from igniting. Then I turn on a second switch, which powers the blower unit. The blower fan draws in the 55-degree air from my basement and blows it out from the floor registers located throughout my home. And, the cold air return registers pull the hot air from the first and second floors back down into my basement. I'm cooling my home for a fraction of what it would cost to power a central air conditioning unit. In essence, I've turned my furnace into a giant fan. I'm saving additional money as well. As the warm dry air is pulled down into my basement, it absorbs any excess humidity, which means I also don't need to run my dehumidifier! So I'm saving money twice.

Additionally, I did not need to add/install any special ductwork or make any permanent modifications to my furnace. Once the hot days of summer have passed, I throw the switches back to their original positions; put the front panel back in place, and my furnace functions like a conventional furnace again.

For the record, my furnace is a Thermo Pride ® unit and the cooling technique I've just described was explained to me by the dealer when the unit was originally installed. If you own one of these furnaces, contact your dealer/installer to see if your model will also perform this function. If you own an oil furnace from a different manufacturer, Google™ for a list of their dealers or technical support reps and inquire about this technique for yourself. I can't guarantee that all furnaces will perform this cooling function and this in no way should be construed as an endorsement/commercial for Thermo Pride®. I'm certain there are other equally efficient furnaces out there and you may own one of them already. But for my money (make that for your money), checking out this strategy might save you a pile of cool cash during this long hot summer.

More importantly, if you're contemplating replacing your old furnace with a new more efficient model (I'm assuming this process might work with a gas furnace too), make sure you ask about this valuable feature. Summer's heat is "free," and you shouldn't have to pay through the nose just to get rid of it.

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