With the temperature outside so hot these past few months, chances are the farthest thing from your mind is your furnace’s ability to keep your family warm this winter. Now that the summer holidays are over, however, it’s time to start considering the health of your furnace.
With any luck, as the cooler temperatures set in, all you’ll need to do this autumn is call your favourite furnace maintenance company and get them to tune up your furnace. If you’re not so lucky, you need a new furnace, and if that’s the case, there are a number of factors to keep in mind when searching for a new one, not to mention someone to install it.
Steve Gadsby, co-owner of Canada Furnace, says new furnaces – like most appliances on the market today – are the result of ever-changing technology, and there are numerous options to consider when choosing a new one.
Building regulations require all new furnaces in B.C. to be high-efficiency – so that’s not an option. But after that you have choices, says the 15-year veteran of the industry.
What kind of efficiency do you want? There are several efficiency levels, each tending to be a bit more expensive as efficiency increases. What kind of warranty do you want? Do you want single stage (basic on/off), dual stage (there’s a mid-range setting), or variable stage (lots of settings)? Do you want the system integrated into your home electronics system with a special remote control unit? Do you want to control your furnace through your Smartphone?
These are just some of the questions you’ll have to ask yourself and your furnace supplier, says Gadsby.
One major question that needs to be asked, he adds, is, “Is it worth it?” In other words, will the return on investment be worth the expenditure, and in Gadsby’s opinion, the answer is almost always going to be, “Yes.”
“You have to keep in mind that prior to 1990, you were dealing with technology that was designed in the 1950s, and the best efficiency you could get was about 65 per cent brand new. Today’s high-efficiency furnaces are rated 90 per cent an higher, so if you factor in wear and tear on your old unit versus a new high-efficiency unit, you’re going to see savings on your gas bill.”
What those savings will be, and how quick the rate of return will be, depends on how much gas you use in any given month and the size of your home.
“Generally, the payback on a home that uses quite a bit of gas each month is going to be five to seven years, but it can be as soon as three years on some bigger homes,” says Ron McMyn, owner of Big Valley Heating, which is also based in Maple Ridge. “But if your gas bill is only $50 or $60 dollars a month, and there’s nothing wrong with your existing furnace, a reputable installer is going to tell you the payback will take so long it might not be worth it to you.”
McMyn says there’s another factor you have to take into account when making the decision about a new furnace, and that’s the professionalism of the company you’re dealing with for the installation.
“Whatever you do, make sure you go with a reputable company that has a good track record, proper licenses, a gas bond, and insurance,” he says. “Also, don’t just go for the cheapest; make sure you choose well-established brands that have a good warranty. You don’t want to be one of those people who call me looking for help after they’ve had a cheap furnace installed, and now they can’t find the guy who installed it.”
McMyn says a very crucial factor is to ensure the installer has a Quality First designation, which means the person is qualified and licensed to size ductwork.
“Don’t get sucked into buying a bigger system than you really need or it won’t necessarily work the way it’s supposed to when the time comes.”
Both contractors strongly recommend that if you know you need a new furnace, now is the time to get the work done to avoid possible delays when the temperatures finally turn cooler.
“Our peak installation time is October to February, so the sooner you can get it done, the more likely it is we can install according to your schedule,” says McMyn.
And if purchasing a new furnace isn’t in the cards because of budgetary reasons, Gadsby suggests you ask about renting your furnace. It’s a service that is big back east, but is only now gaining popularity in British Columbia. It’s a great program, he says, because the monthly cost is very reasonable, the warranty is excellent, and you never have to pay for maintenance again.