A homeowner and a furnace contractor

Buying Guide: What to know before buying a new furnace

We're here to help you make the right decision when buying your new furnace.

An efficient furnace plays a crucial role in keeping your home cozy, but how do you know which furnace is best for your home? 

Get ready to buy - before it breaks

Gas furnaces typically last anywhere from 15 to 20 years. If your furnace is nearing retirement, it's time to start thinking about replacing it — you don't want to be stuck without a furnace when the weather turns cold. But if your furnace is only a few years old, just stick with good maintenance habits, like cleaning the filters regularly.

4 things to look for when buying a furnace: Energy Star certification, the right size, the right motor and a high AFUE rating

Start with the right contractor

Replacing your home's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is a big undertaking that requires expertise.

The first step you should take is to find a qualified, licensed contractor. They can help you make the best purchase decision for your home and your needs. In Ontario, HVAC contractors must be licensed and registered with the Technical Standards and Safety Authority.

It’s important to get at least three separate written estimates from different contractors. Each contractor should assess the size, construction and layout of your home and undertake a heat loss calculation when providing you with options. They should assess if the ductwork is adequate to meet the air flow needs of your new equipment. The estimate should include information on the recommended equipment, plus efficiency and warranty details. In addition, your chosen contractor should remove and dispose of your old furnace correctly.

Remember to ask for references for similar work that your contractor has done, plus whatever ongoing maintenance support they offer, and their insurance coverage. You may also want to check the credentials of your HVAC contractor with the Better Business Bureau so you can look at customer reviews, as well as any outstanding issues and complaints between the company and its customers.

Finally, your contractor can tell you if you need any ductwork modifications, venting changes or upgrades. High-efficiency furnaces vent out through the basement wall using either PVC or ABS plastic pipes.

After your furnace is installed, make sure you get it inspected by a TSSA representative.

Keep in mind:

It might make sense to upgrade your entire HVAC system when buying a new furnace. You may also want to consider an air filtration system and a humidifier to improve your home comfort. Many contractors will bundle the installations together and help you pick the most efficient system for your home.

How can a furnace help me save electricity?

Most furnaces in Ontario use natural gas to heat your home, but they still require electricity. An efficient motor on your furnace can help curb your ongoing energy costs and the maintenance costs of your furnace over time.

An electronically commutated motor, or ECM, makes your furnace work more efficiently and consistently. Sometimes called a variable speed motor, it allows your furnace fan to start up more gradually and run continuously at a lower output instead of turning on and off abruptly, which increases wear and tear on your furnace.

How can I find an efficient furnace?

With both furnaces and air conditioners, it's best to look for ENERGY STAR®-certified models, which use up to six per cent less energy than other models.

The easiest way to determine your furnace's energy efficiency level is to look for the EnerGuide label. Every EnerGuide furnace label includes an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating.

High-efficiency furnaces have 92 to 97 per cent efficiency. Older model ratings were typically around 65 per cent, which means over a third of your home's heating would go to waste.

While price tends to rise with efficiency rating, keep in mind that your high-efficiency furnace will help you save in the long run.

Capitalize on efficiency with your thermostat

Installing a smart thermostat can help you get the most out of your new furnace. Unlike programmable thermostats, which you can set to adjust at specific times, smart thermostats learn your habits and adjust on their own. You can also control them remotely through a mobile app, so if your schedule changes or you forget to change a setting while you're away, you don't have to worry about it.

Maintenance is everything

With newer, higher performance furnaces, maintenance is more crucial than ever. Keeping your filters clean and replacing them every three months (or even sooner during pollen season, or if you are doing renovations that create a lot of dust) will keep your new furnace's motor running efficiently, saving you money on your ongoing energy and maintenance costs.

Remember to book an end-of-summer maintenance service by a licensed contractor. They'll vacuum the burners, remove and clean the blower, and clean the pilot light and flame sensor to keep your furnace running smoothly.

Safety tip:

Be diligent about furnace maintenance to ensure you're safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory for all Ontario homes. Remember to always include one on every floor of your home and outside of sleeping areas.

What about alternative heating systems?

There are other heating systems you can consider for your home besides a furnace. Air-source heat pumps are a great energy-efficient choice that can help you control your costs and reduce your home's carbon footprint. For some homes, ground-source heat pumps are also a good option.

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