These are the 7 Key Steps to Buying the Right Furnace for Your Home
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Purchasing a new furnace for your home or replacing your old one is a big investment. It’s important both financially and for the comfort of your home for many years to come.
Buy the best furnace for your needs and it’ll reliably heat your home and you should barely have to think about it, apart from some occasional routine maintenance.
Follow these steps to make the right choice and not spend more than you have to!
1. Evaluate When You Should Replace Your Furnace
There are a few factors that indicate that it might be time to consider replacing your furnace.
The first one is the age of your furnace. There are no hard rules about this, but once your furnace is approaching or has exceeded the 15-year mark, upgrading it may be a good investment.
This doesn’t mean you should rush out and replace it on its 15th birthday, especially if it’s in good working order. But the older it gets, the more it will likely make sense to replace it, especially in the event it breaks down and could require costly repairs.
One thing to note is that older furnaces generally were not as efficient as modern units, so replacing your aging unit can lead to some cost savings on utility bills.
Which leads us to our next factor: rising heating costs. Although there are a number of factors which could cause your heating bills to go up, the energy efficiency of older furnaces can begin to degrade slightly, especially if the unit was not well maintained. As your heating system gets costlier to operate, the more worthwhile it may be to invest in a new unit.
Finally, perhaps the most significant factor is whether your aging furnace has either:
- Been red-tagged
- Broken down and will require expensive repairs
- Been requiring frequent repairs lately
- Is giving you other problems, like not heating your home as effectively
Think of it like an aging vehicle, at some point frequent repairs and problems can make keeping it on the road more hassle than its worth.
Bottom Line: There are no firm rules about when you should replace your furnace, but a combination of factors can make it more appealing and sensible to invest in a new (and likely more efficient) system, one that will also be covered by warranty.
2. Assess Your Needs – Furnace Types & Sizing
Now that you’re ready to replace your furnace, there are a few things to consider when trying to determine the type and size of unit that would suit your home and your needs.
The size and square footage of your home as well as the layout and number of floors, will influence the size and BTU of furnace you need. The insulation level of your home, and even where you live in the country could affect the recommended BTU output for your new furnace, as colder climates may require a slightly more powerful and efficient unit.
Please note however that the correct sizing of a furnace is best assessed by a professional during an in-home estimate, as any online charts or recommendations should only be used as general guidelines.
The type of heating fuel available in your area, and the current heating system you have should also dictate what type of furnace to opt for. If you already have natural gas heating, it is likely best to stick with this.
If you have oil or electrical heating, you may wish to consider a conversion to natural gas, and although there are additional costs for a conversion, this tends to be more economical in the long run. If you do not have natural gas available in your area, propane heating is a common alternative to natural gas.
Finally, your budget will help determine the type of furnace you get. It is mostly a matter of personal preference whether you want a simple unit that will get the job done, or a more high-end model with additional features and top-of-the-line efficiency.
We typically recommend opting for a unit that is at least a 2-stage model and has at least a 92% – 95% AFUE rating. The more efficient the unit, the lower the ongoing operating costs are likely to be, however in some cases the additional cost for the most ‘premium’ models may outweigh any additional efficiency savings.
Units with multiple stages, and/or modulating burners and variable-speed blowers may also result in a more comfortable home as the furnace will generate a more precise heat output than simple ‘on/off’ single-stage systems.
ENERGY STAR® – Furnaces with ENERGY STAR certification will meet a certain efficiency standard, and most crucially, may qualify for government rebates. We generally recommend opting for an ENERGY STAR furnace if possible.
Bottom Line: Opt for at least a two-stage model, with at least a 92-95% efficiency rating.
3. Choosing The Right Furnace Brand and Model
Just about everyone will have an opinion about which brand of furnace is the best, and most HVAC companies and contractors will have their preferred option.
The truth is that there is no universally accepted “best furnace brand”, and they all have various strengths and weaknesses across their model range.
And while it may be attractive to choose a cheap furnace, you also usually get what you pay for. You want something reliable that won’t give you too many headaches.
Focus on Warranty Coverage: Our recommendation is to focus on models that come with solid warranty coverage, ideally with at least a 10-year warranty on parts and at least a 20-years (or even lifetime) warranty on the heat exchanger, one of the core components of the furnace (and costliest to replace).
But also important is getting a good labour warranty on the installation from the company who you buy from (more on this below in #6).
IMPORTANT: Ensure that your contractor registers the warranty after installation! The warranty will often default to a much lower basic coverage otherwise.
Furnace reliability can be impacted by many things, but at least with a good warranty, you’ll know you’re covered in the event the unit breaks down.
Ultimately, one of the most important factors in determining the reliability and proper functioning of your furnace is that it is correctly sized and installed by an experienced and dependable technician (more on this in a minute).
Bottom Line: Focus on choosing a unit with good warranty coverage, and have it installed by a reputable contractor.
4. Check For Rebates
It’s a good idea to look for available rebates in your area BEFORE you have the furnace installed. We get contacted all the time by people who have already replaced their furnace and want to qualify for rebates, but by then it’s usually too late.
Rebates are typically either offered by various levels of government (often provincial), as well as local utilities, like gas and electricity companies. These rebates obviously vary by where you live, and which utility company services your area.
In some cases, particularly when it comes to utility company rebates, you may be required to do an energy audit BEFORE AND AFTER you install your new furnace. And in many cases you may be required to do more than one qualifying ‘home upgrade’ in addition to replacing your furnace, such as sealing windows, replacing your hot water heater, and so on.
For this reason, rebates may not always be worth it for everyone, especially if you’re in a hurry because it’s wintertime and your current unit has stopped working.
But be careful, not all companies are necessarily registered to offer the available government rebates. That’s why our FurnacePrices.ca Featured Partners are verified to offer rebates, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Bottom Line: Check for rebates before having your furnace replaced, and consult with a local expert to see what’s available in your area.
5. Consider Financing Options
For some people, paying several thousand dollars for a new furnace can be a challenge. In this case, you may consider financing to spread the cost of your new furnace out over a few years with manageable monthly payments.
This allows you to immediately benefit from the energy savings, increased comfort, and better reliability & warranty coverage that a new high-efficiency furnace can provide, without the significant upfront expense.
Payments can often be as low as $40/mth depending on the term you choose.
Most established heating & cooling companies should offer a simple and affordable financing solution (typically through a consumer financing company they’ve partnered with).
All of our FurnacePrices.ca Featured Partners offer flexible and affordable financing options, find out more by requesting a Free Quote here.
Bottom Line: Financing can be a great way to reap the benefits of upgrading your furnace, while spreading the payments out over time to make the cost more affordable.
6. Choose A Contractor You Can Trust
One of the most important considerations when replacing your furnace is choosing a dependable contractor that provides quality workmanship.
The company you choose is important because beyond the initial sale, they will often be the ones you count on in the event there are any issues down the road. So it’s crucial that you choose an established and reliable company that will be there to help if your unit breaks down.
Although it’s natural to seek a good deal, we urge caution when jumping for the lowest price you can find. As the old adage goes, you often get what you pay for.
Companies that offer extremely low prices may be newer, less experienced, may not have all the recommended certifications or insurance coverage, or the necessary staff and company resources to respond to issues quickly, efficiently, and reliably.
Look for companies that offer a good labour warranty (coverage on the installation), of at least 1 year or more.
Reviews are important BUT, they’re not the only factor you should consider when evaluating a company. Online reviews are rarely 100% authentic, accurate, and dependable, and they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.
It’s important that you also check that the company has:
- All the proper licenses & certifications
- Manufacturer training
- Experienced staff
- A good track record
- And adequate insurance
This can be a lot of work for the average consumer to verify, which is why we’ve already done this work for you!
Our Certified HVAC contractor partners have been thoroughly evaluated and we’ve verified their credentials and other important documents. We also monitor their performance and feedback from customers to ensure they’re always delivering a good customer experience.
Which means all that’s left to do is…
Bottom Line: Online reviews can be useful but are not always the ideal way to evaluate HVAC contractors. Our Certified Partners have passed a thorough independent verification process to verify their licensing, insurance, track record, and more.
7. Get Quotes from Trusted Experts!
Even the most thorough guide can only take you so far, so in order to get an accurate personalized estimate, the next step is to request a FREE quote from a trusted local heating & cooling contractor.
They’ll be able to help you every step of the way, answering your questions, walking you through your options and costs, and helping you find the right furnace for your home.