Efficiency vs Economics: 8 Tips to Avoid Buying More Furnace Than You Need

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Shopping for a new furnace is something you will likely not do often as a homeowner.

With the HVAC industry changing at lightning speed today, this means the knowledge you gained from your last furnace purchase is almost guaranteed to be outdated by the time you need to do it again.

For example, in past decades, the reigning school of thought pushed for installing a larger-capacity furnace than the space actually required. Today we know this is just a recipe for more frequent outages and repairs, higher energy bills and overall inefficient operation.

If you are shopping around for a new furnace now or will be soon, these eight tips can make a world of difference between buying more furnace than you need and getting the perfect furnace for your space.

1. Understand what those efficiency ratings mean for your bottom line

For general purposes, purchasing a higher-efficiency furnace system makes more sense when you live in a cold climate, as we do here in Canada.

It also delivers the most value when local fuel prices are consistently high, rebates are available, you get a good deal on interest rates for financing and you plan to remain in your home for at least the next 10 years.

2. Don’t forget to factor in energy costs for electricity vs other fuels

In North America, natural gas and electricity are the most popular furnace fuel types. Together, these two fuels account for a full 83 percent of furnace fuels. Other options include oil, propane, solar and geothermal.

While an electric furnace may be the most energy-efficient performance-wise, if the electricity in your area costs more to purchase than natural gas, choosing an electricity-powered furnace may not pay off in your particular case.

It is very important to balance the price of the fuel against the price and efficiency rating of the furnace itself to avoid paying more to run your new furnace.

3. Use an energy audit to evaluate your space

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is purchasing a new high-efficiency furnace and expecting it to overcome significant savings barriers like insufficient or missing insulation, cracked or leaking ductwork, dirty and clogged ducts, degraded weather stripping and sealing and similar issues.

While doing Energy Star’s home energy audit will not tell you everything you need to know about how well your new furnace is likely to perform, it can remedy existing factors that are driving up your utility bills year-round.

4. Identify the minimum AFUE efficiency requirements for your area

In Canada, the extremely low temperatures of winter have influenced minimum allowable efficiency ratings for new furnace installation. Currently, Canada requires any new furnace to be rated for at least 92 percent AFUE (average fuel utilization efficiency).

AFUE is a measurement that indicates how efficiently a piece of equipment will convert fuel input into energy output. With a higher efficiency rating comes a higher heat output per unit of fuel purchased.

This doesn’t always mean that higher efficiency is better, however. You will quickly learn there is a trade-off in terms of the initial investment to purchase units with the highest efficiency ratings. Be sure to consider how long you plan to be in your space before investing in a unit that will pay for itself only if you stay in place for an extended period of time.

5. Research available rebates, incentives and credits in advance

From time to time, energy-efficiency upgrade rebates, incentives and/or credits may be available for making improvements to your home. For example, the Government of Canada maintains its own searchable central database of active incentives based on incentive type.

It is always smart to research available incentives before purchasing a new furnace. This way, you can plan ahead to save even more on your new furnace purchase. Be aware that the province of Ontario currently requires the use of an Ontario-approved HVAC contractor to qualify for province-funded incentives.

6. Consider repair costs for more complex or higher-efficiency units

The highest-efficiency furnace units are the sports cars of the HVAC world. Just as exotic and high-performance sports cars can cost more to maintain and repair, so too can it be more expensive to purchase parts and service for these top-of-the-line furnace models.

With lower demand for premium parts, it just makes sense they will be pricier to purchase and even pricier to install and maintain. For this reason, it can be smart to talk with your HVAC technician about estimated repair costs before choosing the unit you purchase.

7. Match the size of your furnace to the size of your space

There are two basic methods to match the size (capacity or output) of the furnace correctly to the size of the space. The first is in BTUs (British thermal units) and the second is by tons. Either way is valid.

However, the calculations to determine the optimal furnace size for your space can get complicated and are best done by an HVAC professional.

You can use this basic calculator to get a general idea of what capacity would be ideal for the size of your space based on an assessment of existing energy efficiency, insulation and other factors.

8. Remember, installation can make all the difference

According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Star program, improper furnace installation is a mistake that will keep costing you for the life of your furnace. An improperly installed furnace can eat away at energy savings by as much as 30 percent.

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Through November 1, 2019, play our Golden Savings Scratch-n-Win to potentially save $1,000 on a new furnace, A/C or hot water heater!

We are an Ontario-approved contractor for new-construction HVAC consultation, new unit sales and Energy Star installation, and we are licensed and insured to work on all HVAC makes/models.

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-549-4616.

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