Factors to consider when replacing your furnace

(Editor’s note: The following is the fifth of an eight-part series designed to reduce energy costs in the home.)

The most common way people heat their homes in Michigan is with a forced-air furnace fueled by natural gas. These units typically last between 15 and 20 years, and even a bit longer with regular maintenance.

The most important issue is safety. With any gas-burning appliance, you want to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning, explosions, and fire hazards. It is important to have your furnace inspected and maintained by a licensed professional every year. Not only will you be ensuring your family’s safety but you will also restore the furnace to its peak efficiency.

When it comes time to replace your furnace there are many factors to consider: proper sizing, efficiency, stages of heat, blower options, filter options, warranties and the right contractor for the job.

The right contractor is the single most important factor to consider. You’d be better off in the long run with the cheapest furnace properly installed rather than the most expensive system put in by inexperienced installers. Not only should you make sure that the contractor is licensed and insured, but they should also provide you with sizing guarantees and money-back satisfaction guarantees.

Make sure that the contractor pulls the required permits and make sure that the work is inspected. The cheapest price is usually not the best value. Make sure that the contractor also provides you with optional systems and that he can show you potential energy savings on each one.

Lastly, never pay for any work before it’s completed. Any contractor that requires more than a 5 to 10 percent deposit should cause you some concern.

The federal government is helping by providing a $1,500 tax credit when the replacement furnace model is 95 percent efficient. In most cases with this tax credit, you can get the top-of-the -line furnace installed for the standard furnace price.

On top of the federal tax credit, Michcon also provides a rebate of $350 when the replacement model is 93 percent efficient. Manufacturers such as Carrier and Bryant also provide rebates of up to $1,100 on select systems.

The most important thing that you can do when it comes to your home’s heating system is to keep it clean and maintained. Most professional heating and air conditioning companies provide discounted annual maintenance plans. Be sure to know what is included in these plans before signing with them. Again, the best value is generally not the least expensive.

Joel Wensley is a licensed mechanical contractor in the state of Michigan and president of Mechanical Heating & Cooling in Dearborn Heights.