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Furnace Facts: 4 Keys to Selecting the Best One for You

The comforts of home are best enjoyed when the indoor climate is manageable. Regional or geographical climates present their own challenges to homeowners whether it is extreme cold or intense heat, and you really need a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System that responds to your needs. Beyond the comfort factor, today’s HVAC technology answers the demand for cost-effective efficiency and reliable performance. Whether your home furnace is causing you problems, or you are simply ready to upgrade to a system that operates up to 98 percent efficiency without a chimney, here are four keys to selecting the best one for you:

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Furnace?

Let’s get the big question out of the way right off the bat. The typical homeowner spends between $2,518 and $6,055 to replace a furnace with the national average setting around $4,211. You are looking at a significant investment, so it is critical to consult with a licensed HVAC technician who can evaluate your house for its age, size and configuration in order to determine the optimal method for efficiently heating your home.

What Kind of Fuel Should Power Your Furnace?

The first thing you need to decide on when replacing your furnace is what kind of fuel you should use, whether it is gas or oil or something else. Homeowners tend to remain with whatever already exists to reduce the expense of outfitting the home to accommodate a change. However, it is good to evaluate your needs as to your regional climate, the size of your house and your energy bills.

Electric Furnace Pros:

  • Cheapest in terms of the initial cost layout
  • Does not require special venting, piping or fuel tanks
  • Easily maintained
  • Smaller units
  • Easy to install
  • Considered safe, since there is no combustion
  • Long lifespan from 15 to 20 years, on average
  • More efficient than units of a decade ago

Electric Furnace Cons:

  • Least efficient alternative
  • May bring higher utility bills
  • Best units for regions that are not subject to harsh winters

Homeowners operating an electric furnace in regions where the cold calls for running the furnace constantly throughout the season will find their bills higher than those who use gas.

Natural Gas Furnace Pros:

  • More efficient than electric furnaces
  • Relatively inexpensive fuel source
  • Abundant resource
  • Heats the entire home quicker than other fuels
  • Gas can be converted to propane for minimal expense
  • Best option in regions subject to harsh winters

Natural Gas Furnace Cons:

  • More expensive than an electric furnace
  • Added expense to install gas lines from the street
  • Build requires extensive ductwork

All furnaces should be inspected annually or at least bi-annually to ensure proper performance. A gas unit uses a heat exchanger that may develop cracks over time, which concerns some homeowners due to the silent danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. Installing carbon monoxide detectors and complying with an annual inspection and maintenance program ensures safe operation of a gas furnace for the life of the unit.

Size Matters

Most people would be surprised to learn that one of the reasons their HVAC unit under-performs is because it is the wrong size for the house and the number of occupants. A unit that is too big can waste thousands of dollars whereas a unit that is too small must run constantly just to try to keep up with the home’s needs driving up cost and requiring more maintenance. What you need is the Goldilocks unit, which relies on calculating the home’s square footage, considering the climate zone and taking the insulation into account.

Load Calculations

Some contractors will include load calculations in their estimates as some local regulations require them. This is a more precise method of determining an exact calculation for the most appropriate furnace size for the space being considered.

An Accurate Load Calculation Includes the Following:

  • Foundation
  • Roof—type and color
  • Insulation value
  • Windows and doors—type, locations and quantity
  • Optimal indoor temperature
  • House size
  • Regional location
  • House orientation with respect to the sun
  • Landscaping that may affect exposure to sun and wind
  • Primary construction materials

Functionality

Modern advances in furnace technology have taken HVAC systems from basic-functionality to units that provide all the bells and whistles when it comes to programming, whether from home or remotely. There are advantages to being able to turn your system on before you arrive home so that the indoor temperature is already set for your optimal comfort. This is also a way to avoid wasting energy from heating your house when no one is home. HVAC systems today are intuitive based on how you can program them.

The goal in selecting the right furnace is to achieve the maximum performance for the least expense for a more acceptable utility bill and a greener environment. Be sure to check out the functionality, size, safety, fuel type and cost of the units you are interested in to find the one that is the perfect fit for you.

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