Before upgrading a heating system, make sure you've prepared properly for the replacement. Furnaces generally have a long expected service life (15-20 years is industry average). Eventual replacement may not be triggered by a single breakdown, but rather as the result of a long period of gradual decline in both performance and efficiency. In fact, many people are surprised to find out that the majority of people replacing their HVAC system are replacing equipment that is not broken!
Once in a while, a major failure such as a cracked heat exchanger can force a snap decision, but in most cases you’ll have time to carefully consider available options, including making other improvements first. If replacement is the chosen course, taking the time to make sure it’s handled properly and professionally.
Get an Energy Audit
A professional energy audit performed by a qualified contractor can assess the efficiency status quo of your home and pinpoint issues that may need to be addressed before upgrading a heating system. These include but aren't limited to upgrading insulation to current standards, sealing the house to eliminate direct air leaks and evaluating the condition of the duct work. Many times homeowners find themselves out of step when trying to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Consulting first with a certified energy auditor equipped with the right tools (blower doors, infrared cameras and more) will help you to understand where your home is losing the most energy and help you rank order your home energy improvements to receive the biggest bang for the buck.
Locate a Qualified Professional
You don’t want anyone else handling this. The complexity of today’s heating and cooling equipment demands installation by a reputable and certified HVAC professional. Most major manufacturers require it under terms of the warranty, as well. A negligent installation by an unqualified person can build-in efficiency and performance shortfalls that will plague a new system throughout its entire service life. It can also present a safety hazard to your family through the danger of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. In a day and age when there is very little mechanical difference among the various brands of equipment you could consider, installation is the number one factor in determining the actual delivered efficiency, performance and longevity of your system.
Calculate the Load and Size Right
Make sure installation is preceded by a heating load calculation performed by a qualified professional. This ensures a precise match between the thermal characteristics of the home and the furnace BTU output. Educated guesses or rule-of-thumb assumptions that use a simple bulk square footage of the home to determine the heating or cooling load are not sufficient and can result in equipment that is not properly sized for your home. Using industry-standard software or written process, a technician will gather data in a room-by-room survey to determine the exact amount of furnace output to match your house and climate. Both over-sized and under-sized furnaces deliver poor performance and efficiency.
For more steps to take before upgrading a heating system, contact P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling.
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