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Blog Oct 13, 2014

2014’s Greatest Furnace Buyer’s Guide: Part 1

Energy Saving

Replacing your furnace isn’t something you want to think about, but you have to do it. It’s costly, although the long-term energy savings cancel out much of the cost in the long run.

Let’s start with a simple question: how do you know when it’s time to replace your furnace?

There’s no specific answer to your question. You should get 20-30 years out of most of today’s models. Once you hit the 15-year mark, that’s at least time to start thinking about replacing your furnace.

The EPA says the average new Energy Star gas furnace saves $94 in energy costs each year, while an oil furnace saves around $66. If you have extra money and love to be efficient, that’s another time to consider replacing your furnace.

Other key signs, according to home improvement expert Bob Vila:

  • Rooms in your home heat unevenly
  • You have humidity problems when you didn’t before
  • Your furnace rattles or makes other obnoxious noises
  • If you notice obvious rust around your furnace
  • If your energy bills increase even though usage stays the same

What Size Do You Need?

Get a furnace that’s too large, and it wastes energy heating your home. If it’s too small, your home doesn’t heat up on those dreadfully cold days.

It’s really up to a professional to pick the right size for your home. Manufacturers make them in increments of 40,000, 50,000, 60,000, 80,000, and 100,000 – BTU capacities (and more).

Make sure your contractor uses the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Manual to properly size your furnace.

Electric Furnaces Versus Heat Pumps

Now electric furnaces can be greatly efficient. The thing is electricity is much more expensive than any fossil fuel, so you’ll end up paying more for energy anyway.

If you simply have to use electric, get a heat pump instead.

How is Efficiency Measured?

For furnaces, the key metric is the AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating. All new furnaces must post this rating, and you usually see it on a big yellow label on the side of the furnace.

AFUE ratings range from 80 – 98.5%. The percentage is the ratio of the fuel available that’s converted to heat.

You should get a furnace with an energy efficiency rating of 90% or more – called a “high-efficiency” furnace. In Texas, where our winter isn’t brutally cold like it is in the Northern states, don’t worry about spending big dollars on the highest efficiency furnaces. If you do live in Northern States, the higher efficiencies of 95-98.2% make more sense.

Well, that’s it for now – stay tuned for part 2, where we cover some other tips and top brands!

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