Furnace Buying Guide

Buying a new furnace is not a small ticket item. It is an investment that requires research and time. However, you shouldn't necessarily view a new furnace purchase purely punitive. Modern furnaces are more efficient and reliable than older models, making your dollars work smarter not harder.

So, here's what you need to look for in a new furnace:

Key Components to Look for in a Furnace

  • Variable Speed Blower - Variable speed blowers reduce drafts, noise levels, and pronounced swings in temperature.
  • Dual Heat Exchanger - Heat exchangers draw heat from the burned gas. In more energy-efficient models, a secondary heat exchanger is employed, often made of stainless steel or lined with plastic to stop corrosive condensate exhaust fumes.
  • Multi-Stage Heat Output - It is possible to buy a furnace with a single heat output setting. However, if you want the best efficiency and comfort levels, dual or multi setting capability is the optimum choice when your furnace has a variable speed blower.
  • Air Filtration - Filters with an electrostatic charge trap pollutants and particles to clean the air in your home. Alternatively, some furnaces have high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filters that trap 99.97% of particulates to a size of 0.3 microns.
  • Ignition Systems - Modern furnaces are increasingly employing intermittent, direct spark, or hot-surface ignition systems instead of a pilot light. Pilot lights can be inefficient because they are continually burning. These new ignition systems increase the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings.
  • Zoned Heating - If you live in a larger property, zoned heating is a useful addition. Zoned heating adds to the cost because it uses sophisticated controllers and additional thermostats. There is a downside to zoned heating because it can make your furnace more prone to breakdown.

Consider the Furnace Size

It is crucial when shopping for a furnace that you get the right size model for your home. Get it wrong, and you could find yourself in a world of problems. How do you choose the correct size furnace for your space?

The simplest way is to find a professional to conduct a Manual J heat load calculation. They can give you the exact specifications of the furnace you'll need to stay warm. They'll take into account your climate zone, square footage, doors and windows, home orientation, and other factors.

Of course, the simplest rule of thumb is to figure out the size of the system you're currently using. If you have a properly sized furnace already, you just need to get a replacement of similar size and capacity. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Oversized Furnace

Bigger isn't always better. An oversized furnace could result in home comfort complications you don't want. It is going to be less efficient because it will be continuously shutting down and firing up. Oversized furnaces work in short bursts to quickly heat the space, and then when it gets too hot, the furnace shuts down, causing other areas of the home to remain cold.

All this on/off activity puts a strain on the furnace, leading to a shorter lifespan and a breakdown. Ultimately, it makes your furnace less reliable, and when you consider the cost, oversizing your furnace could be an expensive mistake to make.

Undersized Furnace

In short, the same problems occur when the furnace is too small for your home. On the coldest days, the house will always be under heated, meaning that the furnace is running at capacity, which ultimately leads to a malfunction. And that means extra cost to you!

A furnace too small for your home will be unlikely to provide an even spread of heat, with many parts of the house experiencing cold spots. You will also get higher energy bills and a shorter lifespan of the furnace.

Furnace Efficiency

Allowing for all of the aforementioned factors, the efficiency of your furnace should be a prime and essential consideration. After all, who wants to spend more money on energy bills than they need?

The good news is that modern furnaces are super-efficient. If you have an older furnace, you've likely experienced a drop in your furnace’s performance over the years. Plus, it probably came out of the box less efficient than modern units.

The U.S. Department of Energy has set an efficiency standard of 80% for northern zones and 90% for southern zones. To put this into context, if you swap percentages for dollars, imagine that 100% was equal to $1. So in northern areas, you are getting a return on efficiency of 80 cents, while in the south it rises to 90 cents.

So, for every dollar you spend, you could be losing as much as 20 cents due to inefficiency. Most of this loss occurs through ducting and chimneys, so it is important to recognize that no matter how efficient your furnace is, there will always be factors that decrease the performance.

The good news is that modern furnaces can have efficiency ratings of 95% or more. This percentage is calculated using the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating, or AFUE for short. When shopping for a furnace, check the yellow label or sticker for this information.

The AFUE is determined by the amount of fuel used by the heater, divided by the heat output, measured in BTUs. Basically, the higher the AFUE, the better.

Furnace Reliability

There is nothing more infuriating than unreliable products, especially when they could cost thousands of dollars.

When buying a new furnace, you should expect a working life of no less than 16 years and possibly as much as 25 years, depending on the make or model. It’s also essential to maintain your furnace if you want it to keep working hard.

Furnace Warranty

Make sure that you know the warranty length of the furnace you intend to buy. Most offer a warranty of around 5 to 10 years. The less efficient boilers have a shorter warranty period.

Speak to your supplier and installer to get the correct information. If they are a competent and reputable company, they should have no issues with guaranteeing the quality of their product or their work.

Get Expert Advice

When deciding on a new furnace, seek out the advice of the experts. They can advise on all of the above factors, and even if you need a new furnace at all. It may be that your old furnace simply needs repairing, especially if it is well within the acceptable lifespan we have already spoken about.

A good rule of thumb is if the cost of repair exceeds 50% of the value of the furnace, it may be time to replace it.

When furnaces do near their time, it may be better to bite the bullet and consider a replacement, even if the contractor says they can fix it. Choosing a new furnace takes time and consideration. If you are looking to buy a new furnace because of an emergency breakdown, you might not make the best choice. It’s a bit like shopping for food on an empty stomach.

Don't know any experts? Give us a call at 270-575-9595 and we'll answer any questions you have!

Financing a New Furnace

Given the costs involved and the nature of when the replacement occurs, often, people don’t have the readily available cash to purchase a brand new furnace.

So what are your options?

  • In-House Financing - We provide an in-house solutions to bridging the funding gap. You may be eligible for financing through our partner Bread, and you can find out today.
  • Government Incentives - It may be possible to qualify for a tax credit or a rebate, and depending on the efficiency of the furnace, you might get energy-efficient financing. There are also some local government and utility schemes which that you might qualify for. Check your local rebates right on IWAE.com by choosing the product you want, and then putting in your zip code.
  • Bank Loans and Credit Cards - This is the quickest and easiest way to arrange finance, depending on your credit rating. The credit card route is the most costly due to the APR; however, there are some protections offered through your credit card companies on large purchases that you don’t get anywhere else. It’s worth checking them before you decide on the way forward.

Within these credit arrangements, look out for things like low monthly payments, no down payments, no annual fees, and deferred payments. They each have their merits and downsides, depending on what works for you.

Final Thoughts

Humans are no different from animals when it comes to making a nest. Some basic principles determine if we have succeeded in making our spaces a safe and inviting place to live; is it dry, is it secure, and is it warm? Warmth in the dead of winter is a basic necessity. Choosing the best furnace for your dollars is a must if you want to make your home as comfortable as possible.

Get it wrong, and it can be costly, inefficient, and leave your home feeling uncomfortable. Get it right, and you will have succeeded in making your home a haven against the ravages of the weather.


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