Ready to spend some big bucks on a new furnace? Well let's try to minimize the pain and maximize the gain. A heating plant is almost never a DIY exercise for several reasons, but first let's look at some of the things you do need to consider.
To start, keep in mind that the cost of the new heating plant is partially related to the size required and the size required is related to the size and heat losses of the home. It's probably not practical to reduce the size of the house but heat losses can and should be addressed as a low cost alternative to a larger furnace. A home energy assessment, often performed by a home inspector, or energy audit can provide a lot of energy saving information that can also help reduce the size requirement of your new furnace.
Next would be selection of the contractor. This can be as simple as calling your "guy" that you have been using for long enough to have a good feel for his reliability. It can also be more complicated with you calling several contractors to see who will work with you in your time frame and then getting itemized bids from each of them. Then comparing the bids to try to make the best choice. This can be a little like a trip to the fruit store when you must try to compare the apples to the oranges and make an informed decision.
Better contractors are going to evaluate your home for size of the house, size and number of windows and doors, air losses and insulation type and quantity and possibly even number of occupants. All of these factor into a computer program to determine the peak hour heat loss estimate for the house. Also considered may be the alternative fuel sources.
Most homes tend to use natural gas or propane with electric being a good choice where off-peak type pricing is available. Less frequent is the use of fuel oil since the heating plants are typically more costly and fuel oil costs tend to be more volatile. One popular option is a natural gas or propane furnace used as a backup to an electric heat source in an off-peak arrangement.
The best, and usually most expensive up-front, is typically a condensing furnace with an electronically commutated variable speed motor (ECM or ICM) in the air handler. This will provide an AFUE of 90% or more and the lowest fuel costs. Your individual return on investment will depend on a number of factors and can even vary considerably by location and your personal situation.
Mid-America Inspection Services, serving Fargo and West Fargo, North Dakota, Moorhead, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Wadena and the Minnesota Lakes Region