The average family spends at least $2,000 a year on energy bills according to the Environmental Protection Agency. More than half of that goes to heating and cooling your home. If you need to replace your furnace, now may be a good time – tax credits for qualifying products expire at the end of the year. In this week's Angie's List report, Nancy Naeve explains what you need to know before investing in a new system.
Becky Schooley had to replace her ten year old unit after it went out earlier this year.
"The company that installed the existing unit had put in one that was too large for this home and so I think that might have caused the early demise of the unit or may have contributed to that," Homeowner Becky Schooley said.
Experts tell Angie's List there are warning signs your furnace may need replacing. Are your utility bills going up? Furnaces often lose their efficiency as they get older. Is your furnace breaking down more often, resulting in costly repairs? Are you always adjusting the thermostat to make your home more comfortable? Can the system keep up?
"The average life of a heating and cooling system is somewhere between 12 to 18 years so obviously as you get older things start to break down in your body, the same thing happens with heating and cooling equipment," HVAC Contractor Kris Conover said.
If it's time to replace your furnace, there are some things you should consider before buying. Remember, bigger is not always better. Your unit should be correctly sized to operate properly and efficiently. And how much do you want to spend? As the efficiency rating goes up, so does the cost.
"Every system has an evaluation of how efficient it is. AFUE is Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. So if a furnace is rated on that. So, for instance a 95 percent, or 95 percent AFUE furnace, it's using 95 BTU's per hundred BTU's put in. To put it in another term, if you're spending a dollar on heating, it's providing you 95 cents of output. Very, very efficient…one of the most efficient furnaces you could possibly get would be a 95 percent AFUE," Conover said.
"Buying a new furnace is a large investment in your home. It's an appliance that is going to last for many, many years so you want to be sure you find a company that is going to stand behind their installation. You should expect them to come out and give you an assessment of your furnace on-site. Also, they'll check your ductwork as well to make sure it's adequate," Angie's List Founder Angie Hicks said.
Ask prospective companies what specific manufacturers or equipment brands they carry. Contractors should hold training certifications with the manufacturers of the equipment they carry.
"Even if you have a brand new furnace you want to be sure you are doing your regular maintenance. A great idea is to check your furnace filter once a month. An easy way to do that is check in when you paying your utilities bills each month. A clean air filter is going to help your furnace run more efficiently and help you air quality," Hicks said.
If your air conditioner is showing its age, it may be a good idea to replace both your furnace and AC at the same time. You could see some savings because the installation crew is already on site. Some manufacturers may also offer total system rebates when you replace both your air and furnace.
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