The furnace can be the most expensive appliance you will ever buy and with so many different options and price points it can be one the most confusing purchases you will make. It is important to understand all your decision points.
Decision Point #1) Do I need a new furnace?
There are only 3 reasons to change your current furnace.
- You have a cracked heat exchanger. If any contractor tells you your heat exchanger is cracked, ask to see it yourself. Visual proof is a must!
- Your current furnace is old and inefficient. Just because your furnace works does not mean that it is not costing you an arm and leg just to operate it.
- You need expensive repairs on your current older model furnace. As a general rule if the repair cost is 25% of the cost of a new furnace you should always consider replacement over repair.
Now that you have decided you need a new furnace . . .
Decision Point #2) What contractor should I choose?
Yes, who puts in your equipment is a way more important decision than what brand equipment to put in. Only about 5% of your satisfaction will come from the brand of equipment. The other 95% will come from the quality of the installation work!
Three clues as to whether or not you are dealing with a quality contractor are:
- Did he perform a heat gain/loss on your home?
- Will ductwork modifications and transitions be customized to your new system?
- What is his warranty?
You can tell a quality contractor by how he constructs his quotation for your furnace. Did he do a heat gain/loss calculation on your home? If not how does he know how to properly size your furnace to your home?
If your furnace is too big, you will experience short cycling. This is where your home heats up very quickly and the furnace shuts-off. You want to ensure you have a long enough run time so that your home can receive the proper humidification. Conversely, if your furnace is undersized, it will not be able to heat your home adequately on the coldest days of the year.
Did the HVAC contractor include ductwork modifications?
If not, installing a new furnace isn’t going to guarantee better heating and lower energy costs. If your ductwork is not connected to the new system properly you will be throwing heating dollars out of the window. If the Sheetmetal fittings are not done properly, air will be leaking all around the furnace or even worse the air can be restricted, causing premature failure of your brand new furnace.
What type of warranty does your contractor offer?
Two warranties govern a furnace installation. The manufacture’s warranty and the HVAC contractor’s warranty. The manufactures warranty covers just the furnace and parts only. The HVAC contractor’s warranty covers any labor needed to repair or replace any parts covered under the manufacture’s warranty or other work involved in the installation like electrical wiring, ductwork modifications, etc. Items like humidifiers, air cleaners, Ultra violet lights, etc. that may have been installed with the new furnace are covered under their own warranty.
If your contractor offers you an extended warranty, make sure it is in writing and make sure you feel confident that they will be around to honor and service their warranty. Unfortunately, in this business, HVAC companies are constantly going out of business, so a 10 year labor warranty will not help you if the company is no longer around.
Now that you have decided you need a new furnace and have chosen a contractor, you will need to decide what equipment options you want on your new furnace.
What efficiency do you want?
How efficient do I want my new unit to be? You have two main options: 80% and 95% efficient. Efficiency refers to the percent of fuel that is actually being used to heat your home. A 95% unit will have less fuel cost because 95% of the natural gas burned will be used to heat your home. In cold weather climates it is always a better choice to buy the most efficient unit you can afford. There may be local and national incentives to help defray the higher cost of more efficient units.
Single Stage furnace Vs. 2 Stage furnace?
These furnaces have two settings: On and Off. The furnace waits for the temperature in the house to get cold — usually colder than comfortable—before turning on. Then the furnace runs at full blast until the thermostat tells it to turn off. This results in less comfort and higher energy bills. However, Single stage furnaces are the least expensive to install.
2 Stage furnace
Rather than a simple on/off operation, a 2 stage furnace’s flame can burn on high, low, or off. The 2-stage furnace will operate in its low-fire stage during mild weather and automatically ramp up to its high-fire stage during extremely colder weather. Adding the low flame option serves two purposes: Lower energy costs and greater comfort.
Single speed blower motor vs. variable speed blower motor
A single speed blower motor does just that. It blows on one speed–high. While a variable speed blows at different levels depending on the needs of the home. Typically the fan will only blow on high in the most extreme cases. Since a variable speed blower motor will run mainly on “low” this will result in lower energy costs and greater comfort in your home with the added benefit of quieter operation.