Furnace Buyers Guide

Posted On: November 11, 2014

If you have never purchased a furnace—or haven’t purchased one since before the turn of the millennium—buying a new one can be an intimidating prospect. At Ernst Heating & Cooling, we’ve been installing, servicing, and repairing furnaces for more than half a century. Let us be your guide through the world of AFUEs, BTUs, variable speed blowers, and more!

What’s the Best Furnace for You?

Clients often ask us which furnace we consider the best. But there isn’t one overall best furnace. The real question is: what’s the best furnace for your needs?

Furnaces and Energy Efficiency: AFUE Ratings

Every furnace has an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. The rating is calculated by dividing how efficiently the furnace converts energy (fuel) to heat by the annual fossil fuel energy the furnace uses. An AFUE of 80 percent means that 80 percent of the furnace’s fuel becomes heat while 20 percent escapes through the chimney and other gaps in the home.

If the furnace in your home is more than 15-20 years old, it is likely far less efficient than the models on the market today. Let’s take a look at the advancements in furnace technology over the past 20+ years.

  • In 1992, the U.S. Department of Energy began requiring all newly manufactured furnaces to be able to turn at least 78 percent of their fuel into heat.
  • Furnace manufacturers like Lennox started focusing their research and development teams on finding ways to make furnaces more energy-efficient, easier to use and maintain, and less harmful to the environment.
  • In 2013, the 78 percent minimum required AFUE rose to 80 percent.

Today, there are several furnaces on the market that are up to 98 percent efficient—meaning that they turn 98 percent of their energy into heat! If your furnace was installed before 1992, it could be as low as 65 percent efficient. Running an older furnace can be like tossing money out the window!

Many of today’s furnaces also feature innovative technologies like programmable thermostats and remote controls.

Choose a Right-Sized Furnace: BTUs

If your furnace is too large for your home, it will waste a lot of energy and cost you more money. A furnace that is too small for your home won’t be able to adequately heat it, leaving you and your family uncomfortable on the coldest days.

The size of a furnace is measured not in feet or inches, but in BTUs (British Thermal Units). One BTU is approximate to the amount of energy that it takes to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree. Now, that sounds incredibly abstract when it comes to heating your home. It’s accurate to say that the higher the BTU of your furnace, the more heat it creates.

When it comes to sizing a furnace, you must take into consideration more than just the square footage of your home. You’ll need to look at the floor plan, the overall “tightness” of your home’s building envelope (i.e. how much heat escapes), and more. Your HVAC contractor can help you determine the right size furnace for your home.

Other Furnace Features to Consider

  • Variable-speed blowers – Furnaces equipped with variable-speed blowers run faster when it’s cold and slower when it’s warmer and they don’t need to produce as much heat. This saves energy.
  • Condensed gas – Conventional furnaces have one heat exchanger to turn cold air into heated air. Condensed gas furnaces have a second heat exchanger that extracts additional heat from the water vapor that would otherwise go up your chimney.

Furnaces from Lennox

Ernst installs Lennox furnaces because we have found them to be the most durable, reliable, and efficient furnaces on the market today. Lennox offers a number of different furnaces to meet a variety of needs and budgets.

  • Dave Lennox Signature® Collection. These models use Silent Comfort™ technology to provide even, comfortable heating and remarkably quiet operation. ENERGY STAR® qualified, these furnaces have AFUE ratings of up to 98.2 percent! They feature dual-fuel capabilities, allowing you to combine them with an electric heat pump to help minimize heating costs. Their sealed blower compartments minimize heat loss and increase comfort. Both the SLP98V and the SL280V models can be installed with Lennox’s iComfort Wi-Fi® thermostat for even more advanced efficiency.
  • Elite® Series. With five different models to choose from, the Elite® Series of gas furnaces has something for every homeowner. These models have AFUE ratings ranging from 80 to 96 percent. Each of the five furnaces offers its own set of features such as Power Saver technology, a SureLight® igniter, enhanced humidity control, a Power Saver™ Constant Torque motor, two-stage gas valve, and more.
  • Merit® Series. These efficient gas furnaces are economical and offer AFUE ratings of 80 to 95 percent. They are equipped with Duralok Plus® heat exchangers, dual-fuel capability, and Lennox’s durable, high-quality design.

When it’s Time for a New Furnace

As we mentioned above, when you are replacing a furnace that’s more than 15-20 years old, any new model will be a significant upgrade. But there are many options to choose from, and not all will be compatible with your needs and budget. Your best bet is to consult with an experienced home heating specialist. When you need help purchasing your new furnace, turn to the pros at Ernst! Give us a call at 618-887-6093 or contact us here.

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