Buying a New Furnace
If you’re considering buying a new furnace, now is the time, before the weather gets super cold. When shopping, you’ll want to consider these factors.
You need the right-sized unit. An undersized unit will not heat your home appropriately. But too big will waste money generating heat you don’t need. Size is a function of the amount of heat the unit produces, measured in British thermal units (BTUs). Required BTUs are based on your home’s square footage, as well as factors such as insulation, number of windows, and ceiling height. You should have an HVAC contractor do an inhouse inspection to determine proper size.
Energy efficiency is measured by the annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE, which is the percentage of fuel that is converted to usable heat. The higher the AFUE, the more energy efficient the unit is. While units with a higher AFUE may cost more, over time that increased cost should more than pay for itself with lower utility bills. That is especially true in colder climates. Consider a unit with an AFUE of 90% or more; if you can afford it, go all the way up to 97%.
There are three fuel sources:
- Natural gas furnaces, for good reason, are by far the most popular, since it is far less expensive to heat with natural gas than oil. Gas furnaces generally are also less expensive to purchase and install.
- Oil furnaces are OK for older homes that do not have a gas line. They provide adequate heat, but require more room for storage, are dirtier than gas furnaces, and are generally more expensive to operate.
- Electric furnaces are cheaper to purchase and install but are very expensive to operate. The difference in cost between heating with gas vs. electricity increases the colder the climate.
There are two types of furnace blowers: variable-speed and fixed-speed. Variable speed blowers are preferred. As the name implies, they vary the speed of the blower as it distributes air. A variable-speed blower will go faster in lower temperatures and slow down in milder temperatures, keeping the temperature in your home more constant, saving energy. Variable speed blowers are also quieter.
Make sure the furnace comes with at least a 10-year warranty for the blower and one year for parts and labor. Your contractor may offer extended warranties.
Credits and Rebates
Also check with your contractor for credits and rebates, often associated with more energy-efficient units.
Here are a few other things to consider:
- Consider a programmable, W-iFi thermostat to control temperatures and can be accessed from your phone or tablet.
- If different parts of your home get hotter (or cooler in the summer) than others, consider a zoning system where different parts of your home are controlled by separate thermostats.
- When selecting a contractor, check references, and make sure they offer 24/7/365 emergency service, as well as extended warranties and service notifications.
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