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Steps to take before investing in a new furnace
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Size matters
When buying a new furnace, it's critical that its heating capacity is appropriate for your home. Unfortunately, most furnaces in American homes are substantially oversized. That's why you should not simply have someone come out to your home, eyeball your old unit and then install a new furnace with the same specifications.

In addition to conducting a proper load calculation, the existing ductwork should also be evaluated thoroughly by the HVAC contractor. "A poor duct system, even with the most efficient furnace, can hinder potential savings and at the very least affect comfort," says Novak. "So, it's critical that your contractor conducts a complete heat-loss analysis or load calculation for your home to size your new heating equipment properly. If he doesn't, it might be a good idea to deal with someone else."

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Other factors to consider
Consumers also need to know how much comfort and convenience the new heating system will ultimately offer. Will it come with a basic manual thermostat or will it come with an electronic setback thermostat? Will it come with a rudimentary washable air filter or will it use pleated filters or an electrostatic filter? (Ask the heating contractor which one is best.) Will it have internal and external temperature-and-humidity sensors so that it can better adjust to your weather conditions? These questions should be completely answered before the heating system is purchased.

Finally, it's important to pay attention to product warranties and the reputation of the local dealer with whom you wind up doing business. Most manufacturers offer very comprehensive (if not lifetime) protection policies for such key components as heat-exchangers, but you need to find out how well the dealer or installer will back up those warranties and what sort of service you'll get.

But will you get a good return on your investment? See how much you can save on fuel bills in the sidebar, "Return on a new furnace investment."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Feb. 17, 2006
 
 
More stories by Kamil Skawinski
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