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Think You'll Be Needing a Furnace Replacement? Do Your Homework Before You Shop

How many times have you shopped for a furnace? Because the equipment is designed to last a decade or more, this may be just your first or second time. It’s natural to feel unsure about what to look for, but that’s why you’re doing your homework before you shop. That way, you’ll know what efficiency, advanced features and fuel type will keep your home comfortable for the next several years. Here’s a look at what goes into shopping for a furnace replacement.

Find a Reliable Contractor

The contractor is the person you'll rely on to size and install your equipment. These aspects of replacing your furnace are vital for getting the most from your investment. A reputable contractor is one with NATE certification, factory authorization, experience with HVAC installations and comprehensive repair services. Get quotes from a few different contractors, and compare their credentials before settling on one.

Make Sure the Size Is Right

The only way to know that your furnace replacement has been sized correctly is to hire a contractor adhering to the local and state authority codes. In many states, including Illinois, Manual J and S calculations are required by the state energy code. A furnace should be sized on factors other than just climate and square footage. Other considerations include home orientation, air infiltration rates, insulation levels, window layout and the number of occupants. The right size is necessary for optimal comfort, energy efficiency and system longevity. Home improvements such as air sealing and insulation need to be considered when replacing your system. It is not uncommon for replacement equipment to be sized smaller than the old existing equipment, providing better performance than an over-sized unit that tends to turn on and off too quickly. Make sure to “right size” your next system!

Think About a High-Efficiency Model

A furnace’s efficiency is represented by its annual fuel utilization efficiency rating, which is the amount of fuel that's converted to usable heat. The closer to 100 percent AFUE, the more affordable your energy bills will be.

All furnaces sold in the United States must have a minimum AFUE of 78 percent. But by considering Energy Star-qualified systems with AFUE ratings of 95 percent or more, you can expect better performance, longer system life, enhanced comfort and lower energy consumption.

Know Which Advanced Features to Look For

Advanced features are what make high-efficiency furnaces possible. Look for these specific features when you're shopping for your furnace replacement:

  • Variable-speed blower: Slower air movement for longer intervals is quieter than a furnace running at 100 percent capacity in shorter bursts. Heat is also delivered more continuously, creating a comfortable interior void of drafts and hot and cold spots.
  • Variable heat output: As an accompaniment to a variable-speed blower motor, this feature further enhances comfort and efficiency by controlling the amount of heat the furnace delivers. This can be in the form of a “2-stage” gas burner which can fire its burners at either full or partial capacity or it can be a full monitoring burner which can usually run from 40 to 100% and anywhere in between. A traditional furnace is just “1-stage”, which is full on.
  • Dual heat exchangers: These are the components that extract heat from the combusted fuel. Standard furnaces have just one heat exchanger, but condensing furnaces that approach 100 percent AFUE have dual heat exchangers. This allows as much heat as possible to be drawn from the burned fuel.
  • Efficient ignition system: Pilot lights were once the only ignition method, but more efficient options are available today. Look for direct spark, intermittent or hot-surface ignition. 

Weigh the Cost

An efficient furnace with advanced features might seem like the obvious choice. But the upfront cost of a 95 percent AFUE system is significantly higher than an 80 percent AFUE model.

To find out if the extra money is worth it, take a look at the energy savings you stand to gain by choosing the more efficient option. The Midwest has bitterly cold winters, so you can expect a faster payback from high-efficiency equipment than someone living in a more moderate climate. After all, you run your furnace more than someone living in the South. If your energy savings over five years or so is more than the initial difference in purchase price, it’s worth making the extra upfront investment.

Choose a Fuel Type

Natural gas is the most common type of furnace fuel because it’s affordable and abundant. Remember that combustion furnaces need to be properly vented outside for safety. Only choose another fuel type (oil or electricity, for instance) if natural gas is not available on your property.

To learn more about making a furnace replacement this season, contact the professionals at Comfort24-7.com. Our contractors proudly serve Chicagoland, as well as northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan.

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