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What Homeowners Need to Know Before Buying a New Furnace

by Daniel Estevao on January 2, 2016

If having a warmer, more comfortable home has made the list of your resolutions for 2016 then you’ve come to the right place. What better way to welcome in the New Year than with a new furnace? Plus, having a more comfortable home will allow you to tackle all those other resolutions like cleaning and organizing because you won’t be slowed down by the layers upon layers of long sleeve shirts, sweaters, and coats.

What to Know Before Buying a New Furnace

Replacing your furnace is no easy feat, though; you can’t simply point and choose just any furnace. There are various types, sizes, and brands to choose from. You’ll want to choose one that fits your specific needs. Another important decision to make is choosing the right HVAC contractor to properly install your heating and cooling system. Unfortunately, more than half of all new HVAC systems do not perform up to their rated efficiency levels due to improper installation. Use this Bid Comparison Checklist to compare the quality of work of the different contractors bidding for your business.

Replacing your heating system with a new furnace is not a DIY project and requires quite a bit of customization to modify the system to your home and duct system. When choosing a new furnace, we highly recommend consulting with a professional HVAC technician, who can help you understand the technical aspects of your home and current system. Choosing the right size system is essential for energy efficiency and evenly heating your home.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider when shopping around for a new furnace:

1. Energy Efficiency

You’ve probably seen the AFUE acronym floating around, and if you’re unfamiliar with what it means, we’re here to put that to rest. AFUE, otherwise known as Annualized Fuel Utilization Efficiency, is a rating used specifically for furnaces and is a percentage that can go as high as 98.5%. For example, a heating system with an AFUE of 85%, operating at its most efficient, will convert 85% of the fuel it burns into heat. 15% of the energy may be wasted through exhaust.

Sample AFUE Number for Different Fuels

Source: Wikipedia

As a rule of thumb, the higher the heating system’s AFUE the more it will cost to install. However, due to the high efficiency of the system, you can expect your gas and electric bill to reduce significantly, allowing for the higher upfront installation cost to even out over time.

For example, if you were to upgrade your furnace from an AFUE rating of 60% to one that is 90%, you would immediately begin to notice a 30% reduction in your heating bills. Most professionals agree that if your furnace is between 56% and 70%, you should consider replacing your low-efficiency heating system (U.S. DOE). It’s hard to go wrong if you choose a furnace with the ENERGYSTAR label, a designation earned by products that meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

AFUE is just one factor when deciding on a new furnace or heating system. Other factors include the climate, gas and electricity rates, your home’s insulation, and who you choose to install the new equipment.

2. Fuel Type

Besides having the choice of heating equipment, you also have the choice in the fuel used: gas-fired or oil-fired. Gas furnaces use either natural gas or propane, while oil furnaces are mostly used in areas where access to natural gas is difficult. A lot of heating oil is now blended with biofuel, lessening its environmental impact and dependence on foreign oil.

Households equipped with a natural gas line are better off utilizing a heating system that burns natural gas rather than fuel oil or propane. It’s cheaper and you’ll essentially have a wider array of furnaces to choose from. In some parts of the country such as the Northeast, it may be cheaper to heat your home with propane or gas, so its important check local gas and electricity prices before making a decision. Consulting a local HVAC professional is a good shortcut for deciding which fuel you should use. They will know all the local prices and what similar homes are paying for their energy consumption.

3. Sizing

Sizing plays a huge factor in the efficiency of your system. If your system is too small or too large you can expect to have much higher utility costs because it’s either struggling to maintain heat or short cycling, kicking on and off on a frequent basis. In either instance you’ll have wasted energy and over-stressed parts, as well as uneven heating. You’ll want to enlist the services of a licensed HVAC technician to properly size your furnace so that you do not experience any of the above.

Often HVAC contractors will simply replace your exisiting system with a similarly sized unit, without bothering to check other factors. Besides the possibility that your existing HVAC system could have been improperly installed, your home could also have undergone some changes, such as renovations, increased insulation, ductwork modifications, and more. When choosing your HVAC contractor, ask them if they will measure your home to determine the correct size of the equipment.

Other Factors

When buying a new furnace, there are several other options to consider, including programmable thermostats, upgraded ductwork, and adding hybrid or zoned heating systems.

Don’t forget to take advantage of different incentives for high-efficiency units. You may be eligible for a federal tax incentives, local rebates, and financing. The U.S. Department of Energy has a great list of options available to you.

If you are ready to upgrade your heating system, check out the different options available to you, including hybrid heating, ductless mini-splits, heat pumps, and natural gas furnaces.


Call Pacific Air Systems Heating & Cooling at 253.292.3995 for 24/7 service!

We’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor since 1984.

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Happy New Year!