8 Things to Look for When Buying a Furnace
New furnaces require a significant financial investment, and if you make the wrong choice the size of that investment may grow as you’re forced to pay for multiple repairs and upgrades.
If you’re in the market for a new furnace, here are eight factors to consider before you make your purchase …
- Fuel-use efficiency
Furnaces are evaluated based on their AFUE ratings. AFUE stands for ‘annual fuel utilization efficiency,’ and it refers to the percentage of the fuel your furnace consumes that is actually converted to usable heat.
In areas where winter temperatures routinely plunge below zero, you’ll want to purchase a furnace with an AFUE rating of 92 or better. A premium-quality furnace might carry a rating of 97-98 percent, and while such an appliance may seem costly it can deliver amazing levels of energy savings over the course of its lifespan.
- Furnace operating speed
Your choices are furnaces with single-speed blowers, which (as the name implies) run at the same speed all the time, or variable-speed furnaces, which adjust the intensity of their operation based on changes in the weather.
Variable-speed furnaces that adjust their pace of heat production up or down as outdoor temperatures rise and fall will consume less fuel and cost less to operate, while still keeping you warm and comfortable at all times. Variable-speed furnaces are more expensive, but because they are more efficient they may reduce your energy bills dramatically if you live in locations that experience frequent fluctuations in wintertime temperatures.
- Programmable thermostats
For maximum reductions in energy usage, you should support your new furnace by adding a programmable thermostat with WiFi capability as a companion piece.
Compared to traditional thermostats, programmable thermostats can cut your energy costs by 10-20 percent. The secret of their success is that they let you customize your HVAC system’s operation down to the minute, putting you in the driver’s seat as you look to reduce your utility costs to the lowest level possible.
- The quality of the warranty
Most high-efficiency modern furnaces come with a 10-year limited warranty on parts and a 20-year warranty on the heat exchanger, which is vital to the continued functioning of the furnace. You might be able to extend that warranty by 5-10 years for a price, if you want to give yourself additional peace of mind.
As you look at the warranty don’t forget to read the fine print, so you can avoid any nasty surprises down the road. Regular maintenance may be required to preserve warranty protections, but its in your best interest to schedule annual maintenance visits anyway.
- Zoning capacity
If you live in a large house, or one that just naturally has broad temperature differentials between rooms, you should consider installing a zoned heating system. Zoned installations feature multiple thermostats for separate rooms or sections of the house, and wireless or manual dampers on your registers will let you direct heated air to the parts of the home where it is needed the most.
Zoning might sound expensive, but keep in mind it still involves only one furnace, and it would allow you to shift the heat exclusively to the spaces you occupy, thereby saving you the trouble (and the expense) of heating sections of your home that are lightly-used.
- Indoor air quality
In combination with your new furnace, you might want to consider upgrading to superior-quality air filters. If you are unsure about which ones offer the best performance, you can ask the HVAC technicians installing your new furnace to check your old filters and make recommendations.
To bolster your indoor air quality even further, you may want to supplement your new furnace by adding an air cleaner or air purifier, which can be installed inside your ductwork. A whole-house humidifier is another great option for wintertime comfort, since heated air can be quite dry and can leave you feeling itchy and uncomfortable.
- The credentials of your HVAC contractor
Unfortunately, there are many fly-by-night operators in the heating and cooling business, and if you have the misfortune of employing one you’ll likely suffer significant financial losses because of that mistake.
A legitimate HVAC contractor will have an established presence in the community, documentation to prove they’ve been licensed, great reviews online, and a roster comprised entirely of highly-trained and fully-certified technicians with a wealth of experience. They may not give you the lowest bid on labor and installation costs, but they’ll save you a lot of headaches and heartaches in the long-run by doing the job right.
- Available rebates and incentives
When you purchase a new energy-efficient furnace with a high AFUE rating, you likely be eligible for a broad range of rebates, tax breaks and other financial incentives offered by state and local governments, the federal government, furnace manufacturers and retailers.
Energy-efficiency is all the rage these days, and you’d be amazed how many benefits are available to anyone who chooses to install energy-saving and environmentally-friendly technology. Financing options are usually available to help you handle the costs of a new furnace as well, and your HVAC contractor will work with you to keep your equipment and installation costs well within your budget.