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Choosing a new furnace can be confusing. There are so many models on the market, and it seems like no two people agree on the pros and cons of each. You want a good price, but you also need to consider factors such as air quality, comfort and environmental impact.
Finding a furnace with everything you want requires some research. To simplify the process, break it down into three steps: select your fuel, decide on energy efficiency and figure out the proper size.
Type of Fuel
This is the first and easiest choice. The vast majority of furnaces are fueled by natural gas, oil or electricity, but many people don’t have a say in which they choose. For example, natural gas is not available in many rural areas. And switching from oil to natural gas or vice versa is a costly venture. When it’s time to replace a furnace, most people select one that is compatible with the type of fuel they currently use.
The efficiency of every furnace is measured by a percentage known as annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). Manufacturers are required to display this percentage on their units so consumers can compare efficiencies.
Old, low-efficiency systems had ratings of anywhere from 56 percent to 70 percent, meaning that no more than 70 percent of the heat was used to warm the home and the rest escaped. New models are required to be much more efficient.
- Furnaces with an efficiency rating of 80 percent to 83 percent are considered mid-efficiency furnaces. Government regulations require gas furnaces to have ratings of 80 percent or higher and oil furnaces to have ratings of 83 percent or higher.
- High-efficiency gas or oil furnaces have efficiency ratings of 90 percent to 98.5 percent. A federal tax credit of $150 is available to anyone who buys a high-efficiency furnace, and some states have additional tax credits.
- All-electric furnaces have very high efficiency ratings, ranging from 95 percent to 100 percent, because there’s no heat loss through a chimney.
Efficiency has a lot to do with the price of a furnace. The average cost of a furnace is $3,000, according to Consumer Reports, but a furnace with a 90 percent AFUE might cost $1,000 more than one with an 80 percent AFUE.
Size is extremely important, and not just for aesthetics. A furnace that’s too small won’t provide enough heat to keep your home comfortable in frigid weather. One that’s too large wastes energy and costs more than you need to spend. A too-large furnace might also break down faster due to added stress on the parts and components.
To figure out what size furnace to buy, calculate the BTU or British Thermal Unites required to heat your home. Use this guide to get an estimate.
Author: Ashley Smith