I. Essentials of Furnaces

Furnaces are essential for achieving a comfortable thermal level in your home and offices’. They are ideal during the cold seasons wherein they transport heat throughout a given area.

They have truly evolved over the past century from wood and coal stoves to oil or natural gas burning furnaces as manufacturers have continued tirelessly to innovate and improve designs to comply with government regulations and increase their efficiencies over the past decades.

The term furnace originated from the Greek word, fornax, which means oven. The word furnace on its own refers to the residential heating system based on a central furnace; in more common language, either a boiler or a heater.

The source of heat energy is produced by means of fuel directly supplied through combustion, or by electricity, such as is the case in electric arc furnaces, or through induction heating furnaces.

There are basically four categories of residential furnaces which contractors should know, based on design and efficiency.

Natural draft

These furnaces are made up of cast iron heat exchangers built with an outer shell of steel. The heat exchangers are then emitted through brick chimneys.

As air circulates, it goes through specialized pipes and then channels the warm air into the floor or wall vents inside the house. It follows the principle of warmer air rises or natural convection.

Forced air or atmospheric burner style with a cast iron or sectional steel heat exchanger.

The warmer air is moved through a blower and is controlled based on the preferred settings of the user or homeowner.

Forced draft

The main differentiator distinguishing this furnace and that of the forced air furnace is that it is more compact than the previous design.

These are equipped with combustion air blowers that collate heated air, making it more fuel efficient, and works best as part of a central air conditioning system.

Condensing furnace

Considered a highly efficient furnace. It includes a sealed combustion area, combustion draft inducer, and a secondary heat exchanger mechanism.

As the heat exchanger filters most of the heat from the exhaust gas, it condenses water vapor and other chemicals.

The combustion draft inducer allows for the exhaust piping moving vertically or horizontally to bring the fresh air for combustion.

II. Buying Guide for Furnaces

Knowing that a furnace is a major home-improvement investment, it is a must to arm yourself with the sufficient knowledge and information before deciding which unit to purchase, saving you time and money in the long run.

Furnaces come in two varieties, namely single stage and two stage furnaces.

Single stage simply turns on and off, with no middle setting to control fuel use or airflow within a building. Single-stage furnaces operate at maximum capacity, all the time, using 100 percent of their resources to heat a home.

Two stage furnaces, on the other hand, operate in two settings. The first stage supplies heat to any home or commercial property using approximately 65 percent of the furnace’s total capacity.

When temperatures drop outdoors and the first stage is unable to meet the heating needs of the building, the second stage kicks on to compensate for the first.

When temperatures drop outdoors and the first stage is unable to meet the heating needs of the building, the second stage kicks on to compensate for the first.

By now you already have an idea of what type and brand of furnace you will be purchasing. We may need to hold your horses for a bit longer, however, as we need to further scout out other factors in determining the right furnace for your needs.

i. Size

The furnace’s specifications should fit your needs. A furnace that is small may not be able to deliver the desired thermal comfort during extremely cold weather conditions.

Partly to avoid that possibility, many people choose to install furnaces that are larger than necessary. Initial cost is only one of the drawbacks of this strategy.

A furnace that’s too large will cycle on and off more frequently. That puts more wear on its components, wastes energy, and might cause the temperature to vary uncomfortably.

Also, a larger replacement furnace might require larger ducts. Without the right sized ducts, airflow can be noisy. Certain contractors dedicate much needed time and effort to ensure that correct sizing and installation are present. Such calculations take into account the climate and the size, design, and construction of your house.

ii. Efficiency

Amongst all types of furnaces, gas is the most common heating fuel and most new central heating systems utilize gas. In order to measure how efficient a furnace converts gas into heat energy, an AFUE or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating is used which appears as a percentage.

The higher the number, the more heat the furnace can wring from the gas fuel. Since efficient furnaces generate fewer emissions, environmental considerations might also influence your decision.

Furnaces have become more energy-efficient over the years.

A gas furnace made in the early 1970s typically had an AFUE of about 65 percent. The lowest efficiency allowed by law for new gas furnaces today is 78 percent, and some new models achieve 97 percent, near-total efficiency. The price of a furnace generally rises in step with its fuel efficiency. A furnace with a 90 percent AFUE might cost $1,000 more than a similarly sized unit with an 80 percent AFUE.

The price of a furnace generally rises in step with its fuel efficiency. A furnace with a 90 percent AFUE might cost $1,000 more than a similarly sized unit with an 80 percent AFUE.

 

iii. Most Reliable Products/brands

When it comes to choosing the best furnaces, there are some brands that bring the needed heat and stand out above the rest. Their presence in the HVAC market is established due to manufacturing reliability,

Their presence in the HVAC market is established due to manufacturing reliability, durability, and energy efficiency.

There are a lot of brands out there to choose from, and it’s important to do your research ahead of time before deciding which furnace brand you will go with.

The one that works best for your house might not be the one that you recognize from radio or TV ads. You will need to factor installation costs into your overall price if you plan on having it installed by a professional, which is recommended unless you have specific HVAC training.

a. Carrier – started as a pioneer in full building air conditioning in the early 1900s. It has branched out to produce reliable, high performance gas furnaces as well.

b. Bryant – also started operations in the early 1900s, specializing in gas-fired water heaters. Over the past century, Bryant has continued to produce quality gas furnace lines, namely Evolution, Preferred, and Legacy.

c. Amana – a well-recognized name in the gas furnace industry, having provided homes with quality heating solutions for nearly a century. Currently, this manufacturer offers 16 gas furnaces for you to choose from, including standard and high-efficiency models.

d. Goodman – one of the largest manufacturers of residential heating furnaces in the nation. This HVAC manufacturer has a wide range of furnace models to choose from, including two furnaces that operate at above 97 percent AFUE.

e. Coleman – best known for its outdoor equipment, but in the 1950s, it ventured into the home heating and cooling market. Today, Coleman has a smaller product lineup than the major brands, but it still offers quality units that are quite capable of efficiently heating your home during cold weather.

f. Trane – started off small in the cold of Wisconsin, but has grown over the past century to be recognized around the world as a member of the Ingersoll Rand family of companies.

g. American Standard – has a line-up that is not as varied as those of the other top gas furnace manufacturers, but it produces quality home heating and cooling options for homeowners who want affordability coupled with efficiency.

h. Rheem – a central air and heating manufacturer known for its wide selection of units and durability.

i. Lennox – Dave Lennox built the world’s first riveted-steel furnace in 1890, and because of his pioneering efforts, the Lennox company has continued to develop gas furnaces focused on efficiently heating your home.

j. York – York has built home comfort systems for over 135 years, and it offers affordable home heating solutions in its Affinity, LX, and Latitude series of gas furnaces.

Average price for gas furnaces is $1,215 where Lennox, American Standard, and Trane lead the list. For people looking for a more cost efficient brand, they can purchase Payne, Goodman, or Coleman, with a price range of $680 to $780.

Electric furnaces, which are most common in parts of the country that don’t endure harsh winters and are less in demand than gas furnaces, have an average cost of $665.

American Standard is said to be the most costly brand at $1,165 while the Goodman brand is priced at $395.

Where oil furnaces are concerned, which are considered obsolete nowadays due to current oil prices, average costs are around $1,836.00. Oil furnaces have been used longer than either gas or electric furnaces.

III. Furnace Features

a. Variable-Speed Blowers

These can deliver air slower, while often making less noise, when less heat is needed. Variable-speed blowers produce fewer drafts and uncomfortable swings in temperature.

b. Variable Heat Output

Available on some furnaces that have a variable-speed blower, this feature can increase efficiency and comfort by automatically varying the amount of heat the furnace delivers, usually between two levels. The furnace can thus deliver heat more continuously than can one with a fixed heat output.

c. Air Filtration

Fitting a furnace with an electrostatic filter, which uses an electrical charge to help trap particles, or a high-efficiency particulate-arresting (HEPA) filter can reduce the amount of dust blown through the heating system.

d. Dual Heat Exchanger

Heat exchangers are the components that draw heat from the burned gas. To draw more heat from the air they burn, energy-efficient furnaces supplement the primary exchanger with a second exchanger

e. Ignition System

Fewer and fewer furnaces have a pilot light—a flame that burns continuously, awaiting the next command to ignite the burners. Furnaces with intermittent, direct spark, or hot-surface ignition do away with the constant pilot light in various ways, increasing efficiency, which is usually reflected in a furnace’s higher AFUE rating.

f. Zoned Heating

This feature uses a number of thermostats, a sophisticated central controller, and a series of dampers that control airflow to deliver different amounts of heating or cooling to different parts of the home. The larger the home, as a rule, the more useful zoning is.

g. Warranty

Basic, usually low-efficiency furnaces often have a shorter warranty than their premium counterparts.

IV. Looking for an HVAC Contractor – Basic Service Call

With the given complexity and scale of furnace needs and insights, it is essential that one chooses the best and most skillful HVAC industrial contractors to help in the repair, installation and system maintenance of this important technology. The following qualities and specialties should be present :

Ø Respected and well-known
Ø Promotes quality service expertise
Ø Highly skilled and Technically qualified HVAC contractors
Ø Professional and Polite
Ø Has access to the best products in the country
Ø Utilizes Cutting-Edge Techniques and Technologies in support of the HVAC job
Ø Implements best practices and training in the industry
Ø Family friendly Service

i. Repair or Replacement

When your furnace experiences problems or just stops working altogether, you are faced with a troublesome decision:

Do you try to repair the broken part, or invest in a completely new system?

· The first thing to consider when faced with this question is the age of your current gas furnace. If it is older than 10 years, chances are there have been advancements in efficiency or industry standards that you can benefit from if you replace your system.

· Next, consult your warranty information. Many furnace manufacturers cover the heat exchange for 10 or more years, while some have lifetime coverage. Depending on the parts that need to be replaced, your furnace might be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. Additionally, many HVAC installers offer guarantees on their work, which can save you money if they are responsible for the problem.

Often, HVAC professionals recommend that you update or replace your existing gas furnace when you replace your central air unit.

This is an excellent way to save money over time, as a high-efficiency furnace and a cooling system that are the same age and brand work together better than a mismatched-efficiency set of an older furnace and new AC unit.

Unfortunately, this is not always a feasible option financially, as high-quality HVAC units can be priced in the thousands. If your current furnace’s age is within five years of the new AC unit, it should work well with your cooling unit.

How Much does it cost to replace your furnace?

The average price homeowners pay for a furnace repair is roughly $300. Most homeowners pay between $160 and $400 to have their furnace fixed. At a minimum, homeowners spend $50 for the furnace repair, while at the high end, the maximum cost is $800.

ii. Furnace Installation

Regardless of fuel type, you’re going to want to consider how efficiently your furnace heats your home. Furnaces must all come with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating that spells it out for you. For the most part, higher ratings equate to less fuel consumed.

Mid-efficiency furnaces operate at 80%-83%. High-efficiency furnaces operate closer to 96%.

The federal government encourages fuel efficiency by giving the best-performing furnaces their Energy Star rating, essentially their seal of approval.

Gas furnaces with the Energy Star perform at 90% or better in southern states and at least 95% in northern states. Oil furnaces with the Energy Star operate at 85% or better.

To install a new furnace, with labor included, the average cost is around $4,045.

iii. Maintenance and Tune Up

Regular furnace tune-ups can extend the life of the furnace, cut heating costs, prevent breakdowns and limit repairs, and reduce the amount of smoke and other pollutants released into the atmosphere.

Oil-fired furnaces should be tuned up and cleaned annually, gas systems every two years and heat pumps every two to three years.

A professional furnace tune-up can cost $70-$200 or more, but typically is about $100-$125, depending on location and the type of furnace.

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