How to Choose a New Furnace

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In northern climates, heating is the largest energy cost in your home. Reducing what you pay for heating can save you a great deal of money and exert a positive impact on the environment.

  • Consider lower cost alternatives. Order an energy audit that will track heat loss spots and drafts while analyzing your home's use patterns. An auditor will suggest where to put insulation or make duct repairs. You may learn that programmable thermostats can save you more than replacing the furnace. Adding double windows can cut your heating and cooling bills. You utility provider might conduct these audits at low cost.

  • Solicit bids for a furnace upgrade from several contractors with North American Technician Excellence (NATE) or Energy Star training. Resources to search include www.natex.org (877-420-NATE) or www.acca.org.

  • Ask your contractor to determine if your furnace is correctly sized. If you have installed insulation, you might not need as a big a furnace this time. Ask your HVAC contractor to do a load calculation, based on the size of your home and its insulation.

  • Consider energy efficient furnaces, especially those that are Energy Star rated. These furnaces cost more initially but will pay for themselves in the long run. Look into rebates from local governments or your utility. Highly efficient furnaces can be a good investment. However, if you only foresee staying in your home for a few more years, they may not be worth the additional expense.

  • Do a payback calculation. To figure your Return on Investment (ROI) take your first year savings and divide them by your installation cost. For example, ROI = amount saved first year ÷ installed cost EG = $350 ÷ $3,500 = 0.10 = 10% at this rate, it will take you 10 years to pay back your savings with your new furnace. Remember though, gas and oil prices will probably continue to rise.

Tips & Warnings

  • Look into alternatives such as geothermal heating and cooling that I mentioned in another one of my Ehow articles. Also consider efficiencies offered by tighter integration of hot water heating with living space heating, or installing radiant heat.
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