Questions to ask when shopping for a new furnace
October 2, 2007
Upgrading your furnace is probably the most effective way to improve your home's energy efficiency. Selecting the right home heating system can be a confusing and overwhelming task. Efficiencies, features and price are all factors, but in the end it’s a long term investment and you want quality equipment you can rely on. Today’s natural gas furnaces are up to 97% efficient (meaning 97 cents of every dollar you spend on energy is used for heat.) The older, standard-efficiency furnaces were only 60%-70% efficient.
If you are in the market for a new furnace you can think of them as Good, Better and Best! You can find these choices in both high-efficiency (90+) and mid-efficiency (80%) furnaces. The Best high-efficiency models will be 90% efficient or greater, will have two heat exchangers, use outside air for combustion, and can be vented through an exterior wall. With a high-efficiency furnace, the higher your current energy bill, the greater your potential savings in energy and costs will be. While the brands are comparable, when shopping for a major item like a new furnace it's very important to use a technician who is familiar with the product and able to perform warranty work should the need ever arise. Just like an automobile, if you buy a Chevrolet you have it serviced by a GM dealer. The following is a list of important questions to ask when you are shopping for a furnace.
Apples or Oranges? Compare:
- What type of furnace do I need?
- How many BTU’s?
- What efficiency should I have?
- Is the duct (supply and return) adequate?
- Should I have more supply air and what about a basement return air?
- Does my venting have to be changed for the new furnace?
- Is the hot water tank venting proper size and gauge?
- Are there advantages to a continuous low speed fan?
- Will my old thermostat work with a new furnace?
- How often should I change or clean the furnace filter?
- What can I do as a homeowner to keep my furnace running at the highest efficiency possible?
Custom Vac of Winnipeg has provided the following description of a high efficiency unit.
The Best Furnace
When you want comfort without compromise, the top of the line models are the way to go. They have the highest efficiencies, most innovative designs and cutting edge technology combined to create exceptional heating that offer unsurpassed comfort.
Top of the line models offer two-stage or modulating gas controls complete with variable airflow design. The variable speed airflow design uses a "smart motor", which means its speed varies depending upon your homes heating requirements. And, it does it so quietly you may not even know it is running.
The variable speed Electronically Commutated Motor (ECM) operates very efficiently and quietly, particularly during first stage or low heat operation. An ECM motor saves approximately 70% of the energy, compared top a conventional motor. This means that in less than two-years the motor will pay for itself. Not a bad return on investment (ROI).
During continuous fan operation, the blower operates at 50% of its set airflow, minimizing sound. Another valuable feature, is when the variable speed furnace operates at slower speed, your indoor air quality is likely to improve. The slower fan speed means more unwanted particulates cling to the filters surfaces, allowing cleaner air to flow into your home.
In a conventional single stage furnace, return air is pulled through the filter at a consistently high rate of speed. This lessens the filter's ability to collect dust and allergens. This is why in those instances Custom Vac installs a larger return air drop duct and 90-degree elbow with turning vanes. It's important to slow down the airflow rate allowing the filters surface a chance to remove the particulate. In addition to better air cleaning is a quieter system due to reduced airflow velocity.
Ask about grants and rebates:
If you are thinking about retrofitting your home with a new high-efficiency furnace, you may want to speak to an energy efficiency advisor to find out how you can qualify for a federal grant. Through Natural Resources Canada's EcoENERGY RETROFIT, Canadian homeowners could receive rebates as high as $5,000 under a federal plan to make homes more energy efficient. For more details on this program or to find other ways to save through rebates and incentives on your home energy improvements in your province or municipality, please feel free to contact the HouseSmart Referral Office at 604-542-2236 or outside the Lower Mainland 1-888-266-8806 or visit Natural Resources Canada website.
Also check out provincial rebates and grants through your utility service provider. In some provinces, ENERGY STAR qualified furnaces and boilers are exempt from PST. In Saskatchewan, SaskEnergy Network Members offer financing for ENERGY STAR qualified furnaces and other natural gas appliances.
To locate an advisor or for a referral to a qualified heating technician in your area call the HouseSmart Referral Network at 604 542 2236.