Analysis Paralysis - The Right Way to Buy a Furnace

Analysis Paralysis

Working in customer service at an HVAC company, I spend a lot of time fielding callsfrom people who come home to their furnace not working. Just like a genuine smile can reach through the phone, so can stress. I immediately feel the panic in our customer’s voice. It reaches through the phone and kicks me into action getting one of our home comfort specialists out the same day to give them a quote. I hate making decisions when under pressure, so I feel for our customers in that they have to rush into their decision of purchasing a new unit because theirs just went out. In order that this doesn’t happen to you, I would ask you to ask yourself some questions.

Is your furnace 10 years or more old? Are you waiting for it to bite the dust before you get a quote on a new one? If you answered yes to either of these questions you are in the majority of the population. Don’t over analyze the purchase of a new HVAC system, but by all means afford yourself the luxury of the time necessary to make a great decision.

How NOT to Buy a Furnace

Studies show that a family will purchase a new furnace and air conditioning system 1.7 times in their lifetime. This means that when it is time to make this important decision most people will be making it for the first time. Often times on a blustery winter day, or worse yet a holiday, a heating contractor will have to deliver some very bad news to an unsuspecting homeowner. The reason the heat was not working that morning was because the furnace needs a major repair, and the builder’s model furnace is simply not worth investing that kind of money into. In this situation the time to make an educated decision is simply not available, and contractors may quote whatever units they have in stock. There are also no rebates on incentives available when the weather is driving the market.

The Right Way to Buy a Furnace

Now let’s talk about the right way to buy a furnace. In between seasons, when the weather is mild, manufacturers begin to find their warehouses piling up with boxes. In these boxes are brand new furnaces and air conditioners. During these times, in order to even out production and cash flow, these large manufacturers will offer large rebates and/or financing offers that are too good to pass up. The key is knowing you need a furnace BEFORE it breaks and leaves you stranded. Builder model furnaces generally last 10-13 years and make up about 80% of the market. The other 20% of the market are much nicer furnaces chosen by the people who are actually going to live there and will last 20-25 years. Thus, the average life of a furnace is 17 years.

Nearly every furnace needs one major repair between years 10-15. A furnace designed to last 20-25 years is worth repairing, while the builder models are not worth the investment. Is your furnace 10 years or more old? Are you waiting for it to bite the dust before you get a quote on a new one? The reason why most people find themselves in this position is because they are intimidated by the cost and the process of upgrading their systems.

The good news is that this process is not only much simpler than you would think, but once people understand the payback on the investment, like a great stock market purchase, they wish they had known sooner and bought more. Unfortunately, most of us can only buy one comfort system. The first step is to find a trustworthy contractor who is established, has great reviews, and a reputation for performing and standing behind their quality work. They will be licensed, bonded, insured, and NATE certified.

Your comfort consultant will perform a manual J load calculation to determine the precise amount of energy needed to keep your home at the desired set points for both temperature and humidity in all types of weather. He/she will also demonstrate the rate of payback and inform you of incentives and rebates at different investment levels. All you will need to do is pick the model that fits your budget.

In the old days, people had to get multiple estimates or “three prices” because consumers were picking names out of a phone book, where the biggest crook had the biggest ad–there was no Internet to research the contractors in advance. Many would agree it is wiser to pick a reputable contractor who can offer three or more investment levels, let you make a great decision, then let you get on with your life. Because if you choose the right company, the only difference in the finished product will be which bow you can afford, the installation itself will not change at all!

Fortunately I work for a reputable HVAC contractor, so when it was time for my builder’s model furnace to be replaced my boss simply came over, did the math, reviewed the options, and helped us pick the perfect unit. It was installed later that week, the crew was happy to have work and I am now enjoying much better air quality and lower utility bills. The timing couldn’t have been better because my newborn son deserves a healthy environment and the money we are saving will go a long way towards his college education.

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