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How to select a furnace for your home.

Many homeowners take their heating systems for granted until something goes wrong. One major issue with that is the cost to repair or replace an HVAC system or furnace is very high. An inefficient unit can also increase heating bills. When your furnace breaks down in the dead of winter, it's a major headache. When your furnace leaves you in the cold, should you repair it or replace it?

Should You Repair or Replace Your Furnace

Should you install an entirely new furnace, or repair your existing one? Sometimes the decision is forced on you. Other times you may be able to pay to fix it. Keep the following considerations in mind when making your decision.

Furnace Age
Most furnaces have a useful lifespan of fifteen to twenty years, with a gas unit running 16 to 20 years. If your furnace is less than ten years old, it makes sense to repair it. If it's older than 12 years, it's probably time to consider replacing it. The USDOE as well as experts say it may cost more money to make repairs and those funds could better be spent towards a new HVAC system. It is a similar concept to a car…when to stop paying for repairs (as the car keeps breaking), vs. but the funds into a new auto.

Frequent Repairs
Many homeowners will put off installing a new furnace, believing that they'll save money by having repairs done instead. However, repair costs add up if the furnace continually breaks down. Here is a good rule of thumb: If the cost of repairs is less than one-third of the cost of a new furnace, repairing it is the best option. Otherwise, replacing it outright may be more cost-effective, especially if breakdowns are becoming more and more frequent.





While the cost to fix a furnace varies greatly (depending on issue, part of country, type of unit, etc.), data from the US government shows it ranges from $160 to $800. No compare that to the cost of buying a new furnace, which also of course varies widely, but it can be a few thousand to mid teen thousand dollars.

What to Consider When Selecting a New Furnace

When you're ready to purchase a new furnace, there are several factors to consider. More information on some options and tips are below. Also look into any financing options for buying an HVAC system.

Fuel Type
The most important consideration when selecting a furnace is the type of fuel it will use. You can choose a gas, oil, or electric furnace. Of course your home needs to be able to accommodate the fuel source, such as have a gas line. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks. These are the least energy efficient, with a rating of 70  to 80%.

•Gas - Natural gas furnaces are the most popular. Gas furnaces typically cost more to install than oil furnaces, but they are more efficient. While you may spend more up-front, you'll save money on heating bills over time. A gas furnace is an inexpensive way to keep your home heated when temperatures are below freezing. the efficiency rating is as 80 to 90%.





•Oil - An oil furnace may be a good alternative for older homes without existing gas lines. Keep in mind that oil prices tend to fluctuate more frequently than gas prices. As you will be paying market rates that are based on the demand and supply of oil. You'll need to be prepared for costs to spike one month and fall the next month. A gas furnace will offer more consistency.

•Electric - An electric furnace is an alternative to oil and gas. While their installation costs are low, electric furnaces can be expensive to operate. An electric furnace can seriously increase your utility bill each month.  This are the most efficient (those lowest utility bills) and they have a 100% efficient rating. In addition, the installation cost and price of a new unit is generally lower than a gas furnace.

Sizing a furnace is about more than its physical dimensions. If your furnace is too small for your home, it won't be able to generate enough heat to keep you comfortable. There are scales based on square footage of your home and rooms, and you need to select the correct BTU for that space. As an example, the most efficient (and least costly for utility bills) will be 63,000 to 126,000 BTUs for a 2,100-square-foot house.

If you select the wrong size, it will run longer in an effort to reach the right temperature, leading to higher utility bills and more wear and tear on the furnace. This may lead to more repairs before the key 12 to 15 year time frame.

If your furnace is too large, it will constantly turn on and off. The thermostat will tell it to shut down before reaching a full heating cycle. Short-cycling this way will cause the furnace to wear out more quickly, shortening its life. That's why it's important to consult an HVAC professional to ensure that the furnace you select is the best size for your home.

AFUE Ratings and Energy Efficiency
All furnaces carry AFUE ratings (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). Furnaces with a higher rating are more energy-efficient. The US Department of Energy does have an Energy star rating as well. In fact, depending on the size of a home, a certified HVAC system can save you up to $1200 per year on heating and utility bills. If you live in a region with severe winters, you should select a furnace with an AFUE rating of 90 percent or more. In more moderate climates, a furnace with a rating of 80 percent or higher may be best.

Will you be covered if something goes wrong with your new heating system? The warranty on your new furnace will depend on your installer and on what name brand you choose. Basic models tend to have shorter warranty periods than more expensive models. Look for at least 10 years with a 20 year warranty on heat exchangers.





Your heating and cooling system is one of the biggest home investments you will make. Choosing the right furnace will keep you comfortable for years to come.


By: Jon McNamara


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