Tip & How-To about Heating & Cooling
The reason I am writing this tip is, hopefully, to help you make a more informed choice when considering what new furnace to buy. My opinions in this writing are strictly mine and come from 37 years of education and field experience installing and repairing equipment spanning 6 different trades.Here is a true story of one of my experiences concerning one service call that I will never forget. About 18 years ago now, I responded to a no heat call from the office. It turned out the furnace blower motor had over heated and burned its winding's. My company's cost was over $800.00 for that motor and lady's cost, much higher. She broke down and started crying right there in her living room in front of me and there was nothing I could do to help her. Her furnace was a very high tech. model and had she known more about furnaces in general, I am sure she would not have gotten it. Hopefully, these few things to look for, will help at least one of you readers to avoid being put in that spot. There are a large number of different furnaces available these days and the choice of picking the best one for you is a choice you will need to live with for a long time. All manufacturers, that I know of, produce different brand names and each brand name has different models available. The cost of your furnace will vary with the brand you choose and the company that installs it. The line of furnaces with the highest grade of components and highest efficiency ratings usually have the top manufacturers name on them. Other furnaces they manufacture of lesser efficiency ratings, and features, are marketed under different brand names but still have all the expert engineering and quality of their more technologically advanced systems. That I know of, both Carrier and Rheem manufacture other brands, all coming in various models, each with unique features for that brand and model, and of course, with all the quality we all expect from top rated company's. All of us service technicians have had all kinds of factory and skilled trades training for specific models as well as component and support equipment classes for trouble shooting and repairing the various types and model furnaces we are called on to repair. Considering the cost of repair alone, the single most important thing in a furnace is its heat exchanger. It is also the most important part in delivering high efficiency. The "Energy Efficiency Rating" (EER) is derived completely from the amount of fuel used to produce heat as compared to how much fuel goes un-burned and up your chimney. The higher the EER, the lower your heating bill will be to heat your home. The primary heat exchanger removes most of the heat produced by the gas at the furnace burners. They are normally made of a lighter material, such as aluminum, to achieve the best heat transfer to the air passing over them, and the air heats your home. They are then coated to protect them from the products produced from the normal combustion process. The pitfall with heat exchangers is, products of combustion produce a form of hydrochloric acid that is highly corrosive. A heat exchanger expands and contracts when heating up and cooling off. This helps to form small cracks in the various types of coatings used to protect the metal the heat exchanger is made of. Dual heat exchangers have been popular for their higher EERs and are now widely used. Normally the secondary heat exchanger is stainless steel or another acid resistant metal and therefor resistant to the moist acidic products of combustion. The secondary heat exchanger condenses more of those acid products than the primary due to the lower air temperatures passing through them. Most of the heat having been removed by the Primary heat exchanger. But the primary still expands and contracts and most of the acid resistant coatings, don't. So, pay attention to the efficiency of the furnace, of course, but you want heat exchangers that are guaranteed to last at least 25 years. Guaranteed with the COMPLETE cost of replacement, for both of them, if one or both should fail. The cost of a new primary heat exchanger and the labor to install it is higher than a new furnace. Next, consider the level of technology in your prospective furnace. The higher the level of technology, normally, the higher the up front cost to purchase it, and usually, a higher cost of repair somewhere down the road. A 2 stage gas valve is less expensive than a variable opening valve. 0 to 100% of its full volume. Also, the blower motor (As above). A definite 2 or 3 speed fan motor will cost you far less than a fully variable speed motor. 0 to 100% of its fully rated speed. Every extra function that is not absolutely needed to provide a safe and fully functional unit, will cost you more to buy and repair. Don't be put off by thinking, if it costs less, there must be something wrong with it. Remember, the company that built it, put the same quality into it as any of their other products. It just has less features and most likely, a slightly lower EER rating. 2 or 3 % in the EER rating may add up to $50 to $70 dollars a year. Figure your purchase price for a more highly rated unit, and the possibility of repair costs that may be double or more 8 or 10 years down the road. I have done a lot of writing here and haven't said much. But what I have written has proven over the years to important to most people. If you have double the features, you have doubled the odds of needing a repair. Get the best deal you can but consider all the costs, from the original purchase all the way to when you will really need to replace it. I hope this helps. If you have any specific questions, any of us are able to answer them. Do some homework before buying and I think you will be surprised at what you learn. Good Luck. Roger
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