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Furnace on the Fritz? Use These 5 Tips to Choose a New Furnace!

broken furnace

The furnace is never going to be the most glamorous appliance in the house. If you are like most of us, you probably don't even remember you have a furnace until that morning you wake up shivering and head for the thermostat.

It goes without saying that this is not the moment you want to discover your furnace is on the fritz. To this end, scheduling a quick inspection and maintenance call can give you a heads-up about any repair or replacement needs before temperatures drop.

If you find you are in the market for a new furnace this fall, these 5 tips can help you choose a reliable, efficient, safe, and perfectly sized model for your space.

Tip 1: Know your fuel options before you buy a new furnace

A furnace can operate on many different types of fuel. Today's furnaces can use any of the following fuel types:

  • Electric

  • Oil

  • Gas

  • Propane

The type of fuel can make a difference in the overall cost of operating your furnace, so it is always a good idea to find out about energy costs in your area when you are shopping for a new furnace.

Tip 2: Understand how to read a furnace's efficiency rating

The U.S. Department of Energy assigns each furnace with an AFUE rating. AFUE stands for "annual fuel utilization efficiency."

You can use the AFUE rating to compare one furnace to another to find out which one will operate most efficiently. The AFUE rating is calculated by measuring a furnace's heat output versus its energy use on an annual basis.

So for instance, if 90 percent of the heat generated by a furnace stays inside the home to keep it warm, but 10 percent of the heat generated escapes to the outside, that furnace will earn a 90 percent AFUE rating.

Tip 3: Be sure you pick the right space and contractor for your new furnace

In general, some furnaces naturally earn a higher AFUE rating than others. However, a furnace's ability to maximize its AFUE has as much to do with insulation and installation as with the mechanics of the furnace itself. As well, both can impact your bottom line, from what you spend monthly to run your furnace, to how much it costs to maintain and repair it, to how long it lasts.

Here are 3 things you need to know up front about furnace insulation and installation:

  • A well-insulated furnace installed indoors in a well-insulated space will always deliver the highest efficiency.

  • Any furnace installed outdoors will deliver a lower AFUE because more heat is lost through the jacket.

  • Improper installation can greatly reduce energy efficiency. According to Energy Star, up to 50 percent of all furnaces are incorrectly installed, which instantly reduces their ability to provide energy-efficient heating.

Tip 4: Make it your goal to buy an affordable, reliable, efficient, low-maintenance furnace

If you have ever heard the term "second price tag," you probably know this refers not to a furnace's sticker price but to your ongoing costs for maintenance and repairs after you bring it home.

With the wealth of options available today, you should expect to be able to find a furnace that is affordable to purchase, run and maintain. But it will take some research to be sure the affordable furnace you are purchasing has a reputation for reliability, energy efficiency, long life, and low cost maintenance.

In particular, during your research be sure to check for each of the following:

  • The furnace's Energy Star SEER (seasonal energy efficiency rating) and/or AFUE rating, as applicable

  • Available rebates and incentives (check with your province and the manufacturer to be sure you don't miss out on any savings)

  • The warranty coverage—in particular, look for what is included and/or excluded, warranty length, and whether local repairs are possible

  • Estimates from different suppliers to be sure you are getting the best deal on your purchase, installation, and warranty

Tip 5: Be sure the furnace you select is rated for the size of your space

It is a common mistake to assume that a bigger furnace will naturally be a better furnace. An oversized furnace can actually burn through more energy and do a less efficient job of keeping your home warm.

Unfortunately, a recent survey from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that many contractors will deliberately sell customers furnaces that are bigger than what the space demands. Occasionally, a customer will insist on it, but in many cases, the contractor just assumes the larger size will pay off down the road.

In most cases, the opposite ends up being true. This is why it is so important to work with a contractor you trust to be sure the furnace you buy is sized properly for your space. Your goal should be buying a furnace that is not too small and not too large but just perfect for the size of your home.

NOTE: Since most furnaces are rated for use in residential spaces, it is particularly important to choose a trustworthy contractor if you need to buy a new furnace for your office!

Contact Shipton's for Help

Here at Shipton's, we proudly represent many of today's top furnace brands, including Trane, Lennox, Bryant, Coleman, Goodman, and others. With nearly a century of expertise in fitting HVAC systems and furnaces properly to any space, we consult with residential and commercial customers on a daily basis about furnace fuel types, efficiency ratings, proper sizing, insulation, installation, and other critical cost-saving issues.

We invite you to reach us by phone at 905-549-4616 or online to learn more and schedule your consultation. Don't forget to ask how you can qualify to save up to $2,600!

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