If you are like most people, you know very little about the furnace in your home. You probably don't know its age, its brand, or its efficiency. You might not even be able to remember the last time it was serviced unless that call was a result of a failure on a very cold day. Don't feel bad if you don't know much about your furnace. After all, it was in your home when you purchased it and you have counted on it since then to keep you and your family warm since then.
You can't ignore your furnace forever, however. Sooner or later it is going to break down and require an expensive repair or replacement. While spending money on a furnace is never a pleasant thought, take the time to insure that you don't make one of the 5 Critical Furnace Mistakes:
You might have a service policy with a utility company, a homeowner's warranty program, a major retailing company, or a heating and air conditioning dealer. Those plans exist for one major reason. The company providing the coverage wants to maintain a potential sales relationship with you. They know the furnace will fail eventually and you will call them first when that happens. If you read the fine print in their plan you will find that the only critical component in the furnace, the heat exchanger, is not covered. Motors, electrical components, igniters, and valves are covered but those are all relatively inexpensive repairs. Those companies are content to collect a monthly or annual fee from you and wait for the inevitable. Plan for that day and have a plan for how you will be able to pay for a new furnace.
That rating is simply a measure of how efficiently the furnace delivers heat into a home over a season. That measurement is made in a laboratory in a controlled situation. It is similar to the EPA rating system in autos. It is only an efficiency measurement and says nothing about the really important things consumers say when polled. Noise levels, electrical usage, warranty length, warranty exclusions, and availability of parts are just a few important factors to consider.
If that is the case with your furnace, congratulations! You are the beneficiary of some great work by the installing contractor who did the work in your home. Improperly installed, the best furnace in the world will not do a good job keeping a home comfortable and will not deliver its designed efficiency rating. Said another way, Consumers Reports and others have said that the installing contractor is the most important choice a consumer can make.
It's amazing how many consumers make this assumption today. Consumers today look at almost every other product in their home and recognize differences in quality, life design, and price. They see the difference between $40 faucets and $125 faucets. They think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars more for one stove over another. Furnaces are like any other product. Manufacturers make different products for different market segments. The vast majority of new furnaces are installed in new homes. As such, most furnaces are manufactured to a price point dictated by the home builders. The builders aren't concerned with warranties, noise levels, and actual delivered efficiency. Make sure you get what you want when you look for a furnace.
If your furnace is over 20 years old you will probably have very little time to find a furnace because your furnace is probably already past its design life. Furnaces don't have a habit of failing in the middle of the summer. They fail when conditions are at their worst. The last thing you want to do is have your furnace fail on a Friday afternoon when temperatures are below zero. If you want to have plenty of time to look for a furnace, start looking now. If you do that you will be in control of the process and will have the time to find the right contractor and make sure you can get a furnace with all the features you want.