6 Things To Know Before Replacing Your Heating System
The whole house matters: Your heating system along with the duct system is part of the entire house and is affected both positively and negatively by the performance of the entire home. Before making a large buying decision such as replacing your heating system, we recommend having the entire performance of the home analyzed. This is the only way to determine what the best long term solution is. We often find a situation where a homeowner’s comfort and energy usage are more positively impacted with other home upgrade work such as air sealing and insulation as compared to replacing the heating system. This usually requires less investment and is a permanent solution and when combined with a heating system tune-up can even extend the life of a heating system. When the heating system does require replacement, these other energy and comfort upgrades can allow a smaller, less expensive model be installed.
Bigger is not better: Making sure your heating system is “right sized” for your home is critical to ensure comfort, lower energy usage and extend the life of the system. “Over-sized” systems can “short-cycle”, turning on and off more than it should, resulting in reduced comfort levels, more wear and tear on the system and higher energy usage. Proper sizing is critical to maximizing the performance of your heating system.
Efficiency Ratings: It’s easy to forget the reason you have central heating to begin with is to stay comfortable in your home as the temperature drops outside. Our industry spends a lot of time and money talking about equipment efficiency ratings. All manufacturers have systems with high efficiency ratings but that often does not have the greatest effect on comfort and energy usage. The air distribution system (duct system), the insulation within the home and how tight or leaky the house is has a much greater impact on the overall comfort and energy costs. Proper air flow, proper installation and how the system is maintained has a bigger impact on the overall efficiency and system life than the actual efficiency. Comfort systems are sized and assembled at the house, not in a factory, so the company chosen to install it has a much greater opportunity to positively or negatively affect how the system operates on the long run than the manufacturer.
Brand-X: All brands are not created equal, but that doesn’t mean you should overpay for some big manufacturer’s fancy marketing budget. These days most equipment is so similarly featured and quality manufactured, the playing field has essentially been leveled for equipment. Your successful heating system installation depends way, way more on “who” does the work and “how” they approach the project from start to finish, than does the “brand” of equipment. Beware of getting “branded”. There may occasionally be a special application where one brand has an advantage over another or one may have a better control system but on the standard equipment and efficiencies, there really is hardly any difference in the equipment. Beware the contractor that tells you there brand is absolutely the “best” and beware of rating organizations that rate the reliability of products that require professional installation. Most of those “rating organizations” use survey information to rate the reliability of heating systems, not warranty data from the manufacturers.
Call a Professional: All companies are not the same so a homeowner is put in the position of never comparing the same “Apple Pie” vs “Apple Pie” proposal. We use the apple pie analogy because it takes many ingredients to make a great apple pie just like it takes many ingredients to make a professional heating system installation. Start with a comprehensive inspection and evaluation of your entire home by a Home Comfort & Energy Advisor professional. This inspection should include an evaluation of your heating system and equipment, measuring your home, performing a load-calculation analysis, an evaluation of the air distribution system, an inspection and evaluation of the insulation in the house, an inspection of the crawlspace (if applicable) and attic, plus a questionnaire survey about your personal concerns and goals related to the comfort and efficiency of your home. A professional evaluation should include items that will affect your comfort, energy efficiency, health and safety. Your heating system is one component in an intricate network of components that make up the whole “house-as-a-system”. Your home’s performance boils down to basic physics, and every action or change has a reaction and sometimes can lead to unintended consequences. You’re making the smart investment into energy savings and better comfort, so take the time to ensure it will accomplish your goals by doing the right homework upfront, just like any other investment you’d make. If nothing is considered within the house other than the heating equipment, the long term comfort and energy efficiency of the home may not be maximized.
Now what?: Installing your new heating system is a big investment, one that will affect your comfort and utility bills for years to come. If you make an oversight, you can’t just “trade-it-in” like you can with a car; you’re either stuck with it, or left paying thousands of dollars to remedy the situation. You need to know what happens after the sale. What if you’re not happy with something? How do you obtain “warranty service” if needed? What “routine maintenance” needs to be performed and how often? How will your service provider support you in the near and long term? Make sure you truly have a “Professional Service Company”, not just a “fly-by-night installer” who will disappear when the installation is completed.