Buying a New Furnace – What You Really Need to Know

The furnace is one of the greatest inventions of all time! We’ve grown up in a world where everybody has a furnace, so we take our forced air furnaces for granted.

We don’t give much thought to how much easier and substantially more comfortable they make our lives …. at least not until our furnace stops working and needs to be replaced. Buying a new furnace is a major decision every homeowner will face at some point. Read on to learn what you should look for in a new heating system for your home.

Furnace Improvements and Efficiency 

Photo by Ardyiii

Since the invention of the furnace in the late nineteenth century, vast improvements have been made that have increased their efficiency and made them extremely quiet. The original forced air furnaces were built like battleships.

The heart of the furnace – the heat exchanger – was often made of cast iron or very heavy gauge steel. This made the furnace seem to last forever. This was a nice feature, but these heavy-duty exchangers took quite a long time to heat up. As they were heating up, all the heat from the burned natural gas was going up the chimney. Many of these older units would send as much as 50¢ of every dollar up the chimney – sacrificing efficiency for longevity.

Today, furnace efficiency is expressed as Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), which measures the amount of heat actually delivered to your house compared to the amount of fuel that you must supply to the furnace. Think of it like MPG for a car – the higher the number the better.

The most efficient models today are 98% so only a few pennies are lost. A furnace that has a 98% AFUE rating converts 98% of the fuel that you supply to heat — the other 2% is lost out of the chimney.

The “top 3” requests from consumers are:

1. High AFUE rating

2. Variable speed fan motors – this controls how much air circulates throughout the home. A variable speed fan will save hundreds of dollars in electrical costs over the life of the furnace, enabling air cleaners to perform 24/7 for pennies a day.

3. Variable output – this controls how much gas is being burned and how much heat is being added to the home. Options include: 2-stage for low/high output, 3-stage for low/medium/high output and modulating systems where the burner and blower will vary with the heating requirements of the home.

Furnace Accessories and Options

The most common optional accessories include air cleaners and humidifiers. Air cleaners are attached to the furnace in place of the conventional filter to improve the air quality. A humidification system can also be added to the furnace to add moisture back into the air.

As homes dry out in the winter months, it makes for uncomfortable conditions that can easily be resolved with the addition of a humidifier.

Hire a Good Contractor

When replacing your old furnace, the most important thing to consider is the contractor you hire to perform your installation! Heating and air requirements vary from city to city, but the majority of cities will require that the contractor take out a permit to do the installation. So, make sure that the contractor is licensed to do the job in your city and check to make sure that a permit is taken.

Hiring an established contractor has many advantages. You can get references from your neighbors or relatives so you know you’re going to get a quality outcome. It’s also important to know that the company will be there for you down the road if you need service or if you have any issues that need to be resolved.

Just remember the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” So, if you’ve received several bids on your new furnace and most are fairly comparable, but one is really cheap – there’s probably a reason. Make sure you do your homework.

Ask around, check the contractor out on the internet, and request and talk with current referrals who had work done similar to the type of work you plan to have done. A little bit of research can go a long way toward saving you from getting burned.

Scott Follese is a co-owner at Golden Valley Heating & Air.  For over 70 year Golden Valley Heating & Air has been ensuring comfort for families in the Twin Cities with full HVAC services.

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