What You Must Know Before Buying A Furnace, Part 3

October 16, 2011
The "Home" Comfort System

Basically, a furnace or air conditioner by itself is not a whole “comfort system.” Your entire home should be viewed as the home comfort system… Your HVAC contractor should understand this and take the time to ensure the furnace is installed correctly. Just because you buy a high efficiency furnace doesn’t mean you will get a high efficiency home comfort system, there are just too many variables affecting your comfort besides the equipment alone. The US DOE states on their website that an improper installation can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent.

A poor installation will cost more on your utility bills and possibly even shorten the life of the new furnace, not to mention more frequent furnace repairs. This is so important; we want to reemphasize this point. To put it another way, an improper furnace installation can increase your utility costs by up to 30%!

Size is everything

Furnace sizing is very important. To operate at the optimum efficiency and comfort a furnace must be sized to the homes specific characteristics. In the case of furnaces, bigger is certainly not better. We often get requests from customers to install a big or commercial grade furnace in the mistaken belief that a larger furnace is either more reliable or will provide better comfort. In reality, the reverse is true. Oversize furnaces will do what we call “short cycle”, or constantly go on and off… leaving you uncomfortable and potentially shortening the life of the equipment.

Consider Adding a New Air Conditioner

If you are replacing your furnace, also consider adding or replacing the air conditioner at the same time. Installing both a furnace and A/C at the same time is the most economical alternative. If your budget doesn’t allow for adding or replacing the A/C at the same time, consider at least adding the indoor portion, or indoor coil of the air conditioning system now. That way it will be much easier and less costly to add the new A/C at a later date.

Temperature Control

Another area of technological advancement in our business has been in thermostats. Today there are many new thermostat designs and convenient capabilities built into newer digital thermostats, too many really to cover adequately in this post. The bottom-line is, a reliable programmable thermostat is a solid addition to a new furnace. Consider the US EPA’s data on EneryStar.gov that homeowners can save on average $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings. To be effective in saving energy though, you must utilize the programming features of these thermostats. Fortunately newer thermostats are dramatically easier to program.

Ductwork, air balance and noise issues

Another key component of the installation is ductwork itself. Ductwork, the structure or system that moves the air throughout your home, is attached directly to your furnace and is a critical component in the home’s comfort system. A proper furnace installation design will ensure ducting is sized properly, sealed properly, and has the right amount of return and supply openings or grills.

Some duct systems use flexible duct which can sag, tear, or easily become obstructed which dramatically reduces the air flow to your home. A duct system that is too small will be noisy and make equipment work harder than it should. If it is too large you may experience hot and colds spots or rooms throughout the house, leaving the home’s occupants uncomfortable from room to room. A great furnace can only be as good as the duct system it’s attached to.

Budgeting For Home Repairs

Lastly, let’s talk about sometimes uncomfortable subject of money. How much does all this cost anyway?

Well, the total cost could typically range from $1,700 for a basic furnace installation, to $5,500 or more for the best high performance furnace installation. As you consider these costs and the impact to your budget, keep in mind that unlike nearly every other appliance you may need to purchase, your new furnace may actually help pay for itself from the monthly energy savings it provides. Your contractor should also be prepared to provide convenient and economical financing options to help reduce or eliminate the upfront costs. In fact, by using our unique HVAC financing program we can actually help our customers reduce their payments and spread the furnace cost over a longer period of time than with conventional financing, which lowers the monthly cost significantly. This way, your monthly utility savings can subsidize the lower monthly payments.

An important point here is that, unlike most other appliances, new furnaces must be professionally installed, they aren’t just something you can just pick up at an appliance store and walk out with during a Sunday sale. So how do you get the most bank for your buck?

Buying At The Right Time

First, try to plan the replacement during the industry’s slower business cycles, which are usually early Fall, mid-Winter and early Spring, when temperatures are milder and business typically slows. During these times, contractors like us work hard to keep skilled technicians busy and are more likely to offer deeper discounts to keep business moving.

Likewise, furnace manufacturers, in an effort to keep the workload in their factories more consistent, frequently offer lucrative rebates during off-peak seasons. While it seems obvious to buy during these periods, unfortunately many homeowners wait until the equipment breaks before replacing. In fact 38% of all new furnaces installations are due to a breakdown related cause.

Utilize Every Available Rebate

Next, make sure you take advantage of all government and utility rebates. The U.S. Federal government still has a $500 tax credit in place this year for qualifying high efficiency furnaces, but there are also many, many local rebates in place that could further lower your total out of pocket cost. A great website that summarizes all energy efficiency rebates is www.dsireusa.org. DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives that promote energy efficiency. It’s funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Make sure you check this site before purchasing a new furnace.

The Five Things You Must Know Before Buying Your Furnace

Well, we have covered a lot of ground in this blog series on buying your next furnace. You are now armed and ready with the information and tips you need to help you with your next furnace purchase. Let’s just recap the five things you must know before replacing your furnace:
  1. Know when it’s time to replace your furnace, in the mean-time ensure you keep your system tuned- up annually
  2. Choose the right contractor and insist on a written 100% Satisfaction Guarantee*.
  3. Understand the different furnace options available to you today and they can save on both gas and electricity costs.
  4. Think about your entire home when replacing your furnace – again a great furnace is only as good as the whole system.
  5. Plan your replacement by knowing the best time to buy, and leverage all available rebates. Use financing to help manage the initial costs.
And finally, when it comes to home improvement, there’s one final Key: only take advice from Experts.