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Gas Furnace Buying Guide

Whether replacing an old furnace or installing one for the first time, buying a gas furnace is a major decision. Choosing the best gas furnace to buy can seem overwhelming at first and is not a light decision, but should not be an impossible one. A basic understanding of how gas furnaces work can make comparing models easy. Checking online reviews and prices is a good first step, but finding the right HVAC contractor to work with is the best way to make the most informed decision.

How to Buy a Gas Furnace: Considerations to Make

The Internet is a good starting point, especially for gas furnace prices. What the Internet doesn't show, however, is the optimal setup for a given home. Each home is unique due to its layout, materials used, location of other appliances, and other factors. This combined with the owner's preferences will largely effect the ultimate balance of features, efficiency, and prices and is why talking to an expert in person can be helpful. Before doing so, it can be helpful to become familiar with some of the main considerations:

  • Size: A gas furnace that is too small will not be able to warm the home to a comfortable level during periods of low temperatures. However, selecting a unit that is bigger than needed is not a good alternative. A too large unit will constantly cycle on and off, wearing itself out faster and causing uncomfortable variations in inside temperatures.
  • Efficiency:Efficiency is a major factor since higher efficiency means lower energy bills. It also means reduced emissions and less impact on the environment. Efficiency is measured by how much fuel energy is turned into heat and how much is wasted or leaked.

    The annual fuel utilization efficiency rating (AFUE) is the primary method of rating used and is given as a percentage. Older gas furnaces can have efficiency ratings below 70 percent. By contrast, modern units are required by law to be at least 78 percent efficient and can have efficiency ratings greater than 90 percent.

    Of course, increased efficiency comes with an increased initial cost. Because of fuel savings, the unit will almost certainly eventually pay for itself, but the question is when? HVAC contractors have computer programs that can input data about the furnace, home where it will be installed, and local climate to come up with a reliable estimate.

  • Repair or Replace? With older units, the question is whether it is more cost effective to spend money repairing the unit or to immediately replace it. Luckily, many problems can be quickly and easily repaired by replacing filters, cleaning ducts, or checking the wiring and fuses. In those cases it then becomes a question of whether a change will increase efficiency as outlined above.
  • Additional Features:Newer units have a range of optional features aimed at increasing efficiency and/or comfort.

    Variable speed blowers or heat output: These options control the heat output by either changing the airflow speed or the actual amount of heat generated. This can slow heat generation when less heat is needed, leading to a more stable temperature and less drafts.

    Air filtration: For those with allergies or other health concerns, units with HEPA filters are available to further decrease the amount of dust or other debris that may otherwise be blown through the heating system.

    Ignition systems: Pilot lights are being replaced with electric spark systems or other lighting mechanisms. No longer having a constantly burning flame to start the unit reduces the fuel used and increases overall efficiency.

    Zoned heating: Zoned heating uses dampers within the ducts to vary the airflow in different areas of the home. This allows for increased comfort and reduced energy by only fully heating the rooms that are most used or by increasing heat to rooms that cool more quickly such as those with more windows. Unfortunately, selecting this option can increase ongoing maintenance needs because there are more moving parts that might potentially need repair.

Choosing a Contractor

When choosing where to buy gas furnace, choosing the right contractor can be just as important as selecting the right gas furnace. The right contractor will help accurately analyze the available options in accordance with the customer's budget and preferences instead of trying to quickly push them to a more profitable model.

Gas furnace installation is only the first step. It may be helpful in the future when routine maintenance is needed or emergency repairs are required to already have a trusted contractor who is familiar with the system to perform the work.