Questions to Ask When Buying a New Heater

/questionsWhen your current trusty furnace, boiler, or heat pump finally gives in to the march of time and becomes either too old and worn down to be worth continued usage or breaks down entirely, you may feel a strong sense of dread as you imagine the challenges you’re about to face when shopping for a new heater. And to your credit, there is quite a bit involved when it comes to choosing and paying for a new heating system. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Before getting all the answers though, you must first know the right questions to ask. The right questions will lead the way as you search and shop for a new heating system and will put you on track to making the right choice for your situation. For example, characteristics of your new furnace, such as efficiency, size, and type, all have implications on the amount of money you are going to spend to operate the unit during the peak heating season, as well as how long your system is going to perform at peak levels. That’s what this tip is dedicated to, giving you the right questions to ask both yourself and whatever heating service in Austin you choose to work with. We’ll look at both the right questions to ask when you need a new heater and why these questions are the important ones.

What Type of Heater Should You Get?

This question may be an easy or hard one to answer depending on how satisfied you were generally with your last heating system. If you had a furnace it you found it worked for you just fine then this may be a no-brainer question. Furnaces are after all the most popular form of heating system in our region and for good reason. They’re reliable and easy to use and they use the same ductwork system that your air conditioner uses.

If you do decide to go with a furnace you also have two main options still and that’s between a split system and a packaged system. Split systems are what people commonly associate with heating and air conditioning, comprised of a condensing unit, furnace and coil that sit on top of your furnace.

However, many people who don’t have basements, crawl spaces and attics have to choose a system that can provide the same heating and cooling capabilities of a split system without having to find the room for a cumbersome indoor component. If this is the case in your home, you may want to explore your packaged system options. These systems contain your heating and cooling components in one, convenient outdoor unit. If you currently have a split system but want to free up some extra space in your home, you can always switch to a packaged unit. The same works for people who currently have packaged systems, but would like to switch to a split system. Either way, it’s a distinction that’s worth considering. Ask your local cooling and heating contractor and they will be able to recommend the heating system that is right for your home.

Of course, there are options beyond furnaces as well. The main two other types of heating systems you may consider are boilers and heat pumps. A heat pump can be used for both heating and cooling. In the summer, it acts as an air conditioner, removing heat from the air inside the house and transferring it outside. In the winter, the heat pump operates in reverse, removing heat from the outside air or ground, and transferring it inside the house. Residential heat pumps are divided into two major groups: air source systems, which draw heat from the air, and ground source systems, which draw heat from the ground or underground water.

If you currently use a furnace and it happens to be an electrical furnace then this might be an appealing switch for you. A homeowner who has an electric furnace and wants to stay with electricity as an energy source may be able to reduce heating costs by up to 50% by converting to an air source heat pump and by 65% by converting to a ground source heat pump.

The other main option is a boiler. Gas-fired boilers use either a power burner or the same type of burner as furnaces. A circulating pump pushes heated water through the pipes and the radiator system. Conventional boilers have seasonal efficiencies of about 60%. Condensing gas-fired boilers in hydronic heating systems can have difficulty condensing in practice because the return water temperature is above the dew point of the flue gases. By installing a water-to-water heat exchanger and storage tank upstream of the boiler, the return water temperature can be brought below the dew point, flue gases will condense, and efficiency will improve significantly. Keep this in mind when talking to your local HVAC contractor about the possibility of switching to a boiler.

The right way to decide the most appropriate form of heating and cooling for your home is to do an economic analysis based on a system’s purchase price and efficiency, the cost of your fuel, and your home’s heating and cooling load requirements. Keep in mind that if you’re replacing an existing forced-air furnace and air conditioner with a heat pump, the ductwork may need to be replaced, too. Heat pumps generally require larger ducts.

What Size Do You Need?

When we’re talking about size, we’re not talking about the actual dimensions of the heater so much as the amount of heating it can output. This is a very important question because getting a bigger heater than necessary will waste money upfront and possibly over time because a too big furnace for example will turn on and off more often as it will put out heat quicker and this will cause your heating bill to rise. And a too small heater will not be able to properly heat up the house and will cause both discomforts and likely a rise in utility costs as well.

So what you need to ask your Austin heating service contractor is about the “load calculation”. In essence, it’s a measurement that provides an exact sizing of your furnace or other heating systems to meet the unique demands of your home. With variables like windows, insulation, type of construction, not all homes are alike. If you’re making a sizable investment, don’t you want it to be the right size system? When your contractor comes to your home to give you a quote, they should perform a Manual J load calculation to find out the system size you need (measured in BTUs or tons). This calculation takes your entire home into account, from square footage to window efficiency.

If your contractor gives you a quote over the phone, without looking closely at your home, that is a big red flag. Systems that are too small or too large will never heat your home properly, could always be running, or burn out sooner than expected.

And it all depends on the answer to the first question. For example, the boiler calculation is based on the number and size of radiators and baseboards. Air conditioning, heat pump and furnace loads are based primarily on cubic footage, but there are other factors, including the direction your house faces, insulation, and the size, type and number of windows you have. Needless to say, it gets complicated.

How Do You Choose a Contractor?

This takes us perhaps to our most important question. Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how well you understand your heating needs, how thoroughly you’ve looked into your options and how certain you are about what brand or type of heater you want. You’re not going to get very far with the wrong contractor. An HVAC contractor is a company that does everything from Austin heater repair to heating and cooling installation and maintenance. The quality of the company you choose to work with will determine just about everything about your buying and installing experience.

This is especially true as most of the other questions you need to investigate when it comes to choosing the right heater you’ll want to direct to this contractor so that they can recommend the best options to you. Most HVAC contractors specialize in designing and installing the systems of a few manufacturers, so no one shop is going to carry every major brand. But before you worry about the equipment, it makes sense to find contractors in your area that are knowledgeable and service-oriented.

A good place to start if you haven’t worked with any local Austin heating contractors before is to ask neighbors, friends and family what companies they hired to replace a furnace or air-conditioning system. If they were happy with the installation, ask their contractor to come over and talk to you about heating or cooling your house. You should meet with at least two contractors, and hire someone who installs products from at least two manufacturers. Don’t forget to consider your service company, if you have one. You’re under no obligation to hire the firm for the new system, but its technicians do have a good understanding of the conditions in your home.

Most HVAC shops are small, so the owner should be involved with the system design and either participate actively in the installation or inspect it when it’s done. You don’t want your system designed by a salesman with no field experience. In fact, it is required that the license holder inspect each job where a permit has been pulled. This follow-up visit is something that should be discussed with a homeowner before the job has been agreed upon. Within this visit, the supervising technician should be going through the specifics of the job laid out in your agreement, and going through a checklist to ensure everything meets code requirements. These are all things to think about and look for when talking to contractors about potentially hiring them for the installation job.

New Heaters and Heating repair in Austin

As you can see, choosing the perfect heater to replace your old one with is an involved task. The most important step however might be choosing the right people to work with. Having a good heating and cooling contractor on board with you, giving you the right recommendations, doing the right calculations, and performing the installation with skill is essential when it comes to replacing your furnace or other heating systems.

AC Express is one such HVAC contractor. We do heater repair in Austin and installation and with our experienced technicians, you’ll surely be left satisfied with the experience. If you need a new furnace or heat pump or just need your current one repaired, don’t hesitate to call today as we perform same-day heater repair all throughout the Austin area, from Hutto and Manor to Leander and Liberty Hill. Call today!