Questions To Ask Before You Buy A New Furnace
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With regular maintenance, your furnace should last you anywhere from 10-20 years. It’s also not uncommon for a furnace to last beyond that – but at some point, they start to become as much liability as appliance.
If you’re reading this article, you may be buying a furnace for the first time. Conversely, you could be an experienced house flipper or property manager who’s done this before – but is looking for a new angle.
In either case, you’re going to get what you came for.
Before buying a new furnace, it is important to consider all of the variables. There’s (hopefully) no need to rush into that decision. Even if there is, we can help you make a quick but informed selection.
You might be thinking, “Why is it such an important decision, anyway?”
Furnaces are not all created equal. There are different fuel sources, different features, and different price points to consider, for starters. It also bears mentioning that HVAC equipment is often the most expensive single investment in your home.
That’s right – over the course of home ownership, unless you’re literally building the house (and sometimes even then), the HVAC will be the biggest-ticket item.
With that consideration in mind, why wouldn’t you put some serious thought into things?
Here are the questions you should be asking yourself:
What size or capacity furnace do I need?
Contractors who aren’t worth their fee do something that most of us in the industry frown upon:
They opt to replace your system with an equivalently sized system.
Why is that a mistake, you ask? First, let’s define “sizing” for you.
The size of your system is basically a measure of its power. This is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), which is defined as the amount of heat required to raise a pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.
That’s too much jargon already, right? But hang in there, there’s a bit more.
To get the BTU rating of your system, you multiply the efficiency rating (typically expressed as a percentage) by the input BTUs. Thus, a system that operates at 90% efficiency and has 100,000 input BTUs outputs 90,000 BTUs.
A system is considered properly “sized” for your home when the output BTUs are a match for your home’s heating needs.
To figure that out, a contractor performs a heat load calculation called the Manual J. That takes into account your climate, your home’s thermal envelope, your home’s ductwork and design, the number of residents or inhabitants, the number of doors, windows, and other variables.
However, some contractors – a word used here quite loosely – will simply multiply the square footage of your home by 45 BTUs, an oversimplification that often leads to an oversized unit.
So how does this affect you and your decision?
Well, an improperly sized unit will be inefficient and have a shortened lifespan. If your old furnace was problematic, it’s possible that sizing was a factor. A good contractor will do a load calculation for you and make sure that your new system is a perfect fit for your home.
Sizing is a Goldilocks endeavor; it can’t be too big, or the system will cycle on and off too frequently and your home will be humid; it can’t be too small, or the system will be overworked and insufficient to the task at hand. It has to be just right.
How efficient should my new furnace be?
Efficiency is measured through yet another acronym, this time the AFUE rating. AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Typically, every furnace will have a big yellow sticker on it that tells you what that rating is, on a scale from 1-100.
No furnace manufactured today has an AFUE rating below 80, which is the mandatory minimum from the Department of Energy. High-Efficiency models can have AFUE ratings as high as 97 – meaning that 97% of your fuel goes directly to heating your home, with only a fractional 3% loss.
Regarding new furnace purchases, most customers will go for either the lowest budget or the highest efficiency rating. Neither of those are necessarily the right choice for you.
Most of the time, you can’t go wrong by simply choosing the most efficient furnace you can reasonably afford. However, because we handle residential and commercial heating needs over a wide area, we’ve run into a few exceptions to that rule.
For instance, let’s say that you’re a property manager with many properties, or a homeowner preparing to sell your home and move. It may not make sense, in that case, to choose the highest-efficiency models available, as you won’t be there long enough to reap the savings benefits.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to live in your home long term, then buying a low-budget furnace is a serious judgment error; you will lose more money long term due to higher bills than you will have saved up front.
Strike a balance between upfront costs and operational costs. That’s the best advice we can offer on that subject.
What kind of furnace should I buy?
Another variable worth considering is the type of furnace you need. Consider which energy source makes the most sense. Is natural gas the cheapest energy option in your region, or could you potentially save my money by switching to propane?
In some regions, even electricity is a great option, because electric furnaces are efficient, and those specific areas may have lower electricity costs.
Of course, we have to point out that it’s more commonly the case that electric heat is the most expensive on a monthly basis, as generating heat electrically is less efficient than doing so through combustible fuels.
Oil furnaces remain an option, but they take up more space and have a harsher environmental impact. If your old furnace is oil, perhaps a furnace installation Owensboro could be your opportunity to make the switch to natural gas or propane.
You might also consider a heat pump, which in some ways represents the best of both worlds – however, if your home is already set up for natural gas, it’s likely going to be cheapest to stick with it.
What features do I want?
One very popular feature in modern furnaces is the variable-stage compressor. That allows your system to change the speed at which the blower operates, which keeps your home more evenly heated, saves energy, and reduces noisiness in your home. A standard compressor has only two speeds – ON and OFF.
Another readily available option is the electronic igniter, an alternative to the traditional pilot light. Because pilot lights are always burning away in your furnace, they are consuming fuel 24 hours a day. In small amounts, sure, but it does add up.
An electronic pilot ignites only when it is needed, ensuring that all of your fuel is devoted to keeping you cozy.
What accessories might I need?
The features available to you might influence your purchasing decision as well. For instance, many complaints during our furnace repair Owensboro service calls revolve around dry air or breathing issues.
Many furnaces leave the home feeling too arid. One way around that is through opting to have a whole-home humidifier installed in your ductwork. The humidifier will use a humidistat to check the humidity in the air and introduce moisture as needed to ensure your comfort.
It’s also better for your hardwood floors, and for reducing the incidence of static electricity shocks in your home.
You might also consider a UV light. This ultraviolet accessory kills bacteria and mold in your ductworks so that the air circulating around your home is extra clean.
Another accessory that’s growing in popularity is the air purifier. They capture contaminants with highly efficient filtration. Some even use a small electrical charge to kill mold, bacteria, and viruses. They fill the same niche as a UV light, in some ways, but use different technology.
A note of warning, though – super efficient MERV filters like those used in air purification can, in some cases, reduce the efficiency of your system or put undue strain on the blower and compressor.
Before buying that kind of system, speak to a professional and make sure that your system is properly rated for it.
The most popular accessory – and the one we suggest every homeowner spring for – is the Wi-Fi capable programmable thermostat. It makes your system a smart system, and renders it controllable from your home. Programmable thermostats drastically improve performance and efficiency.
Who should install my new furnace?
Installation is the single most important factor in determining the success or failure of your furnace. A cut-rate installer is enough to offset every advantage of your shiny new equipment.
Unequivocally, your choice of furnace installation Owensboro contractor is more important even than which furnace you buy.
That means that it’s up to you to vet your options and choose the right contractor. Fortunately, we’ve made that decision easier by writing blog articles on how to choose the right installation contractor, but here’s the short version.
A great contractor is:
- Licensed and insured
- Involved with, and certified by, the best HVAC manufacturers.
- Able to perform a Manual J Load Calculation
- Ready to check your existing ductwork and look for design improvements or repairs.
- Willing to back their work up with a satisfaction guarantee.
- Probably not your cheapest option.
- Probably not your most expensive option, either.
Reputable contractors may not be able to compete with fly-by-night prices, but shady contractors will cost you a fortune when their installations lead to poor performance and premature equipment failure.
By the same token, the very best contractors are often not the most expensive – not because we don’t know our worth, but because we work hard to ensure our customers don’t overpay.
How much will it cost?
There’s no obvious number to pin on this, as it will depend on all of the other variables we’ve been talking about. It will also vary depending on how long the installation takes, as labor costs have to be taken into account.
A standard installation can usually be completed in just one day, but a more complicated one – such as one that involves installing new ducts – could take up to a week.
Medium quality gas or propane furnaces can be had for as little as a couple thousand dollars, plus the cost of labor and any necessary duct repairs. The cost will also go up if you want some of the accessories we discussed above, such as the humidifier or ultraviolet light.
You may have to pony up a little extra if your house needs a new electric panel to support the system, as well, or if you need your home divided into zones, or if your home is large enough to require two systems.
It’s rare for the total cost to exceed 10,000, though, so a range of about 2,000-10,000 is a reasonable expectation to have.
You could potentially save a little money by opting for a less experienced contractor or doing some of the work yourself – but we’ve already told you what a disaster that usually turns out to be.
The smart play is to choose the best contractor around, weigh their advice against your available budget, and make the most informed decision that you can.
Are there any warranties, rebates, or tax incentives available?
One great way to reduce your costs is to shop around for rebates and tax incentives. They are most commonly available on higher-end models, but they allow you to get a super efficient furnace for the cost of a mediocre one.
For that reason, they’re a godsend. One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning furnace installation Owensboro technicians and sales personnel will be able to talk you through what promotions and incentives are available when you call.
You should always make sure that any equipment you buy has a competitive warranty. Most HVAC equipment comes with a warranty that lasts about 10 years, and you shouldn’t settle for less. Make sure that the warranty covers the most expensive parts – like the compressor.
If you aren’t certain about the warranty, talk to your installation technician or the salesperson with whom you are speaking. Our team would never steer you wrong.