Furnace Replacement: Expectations vs. Reality

No homeowner wants to be told that their furnace has reached the end of its life. Sooner or later, however, this is a reality you’ll deal with if you plan on staying in your home for any length of time. The truth is that furnaces eventually stop working as efficiently as they once did, and you may notice that your home doesn’t feel as warm as it used to, and your utility bills have climbed during the heating season.


While you may not want to face a furnace replacement, putting one off until a later date may end up causing you even more frustration and costing more money. An outdated furnace won’t be able to evenly warm your family’s home, and it could also require repair after repair just to keep it running.


Heating repairs can be costly, and this is money you could have put toward a new unit. So, don’t delay if you need a replacement. You’ll be glad that you took care of this problem before your unit unexpectedly breaks down on what may feel like the coldest day of the season.


Understanding the different types of furnaces

Your expectation when purchasing a new heating system may be that you should just get a newer version of what you already have. While most people will likely purchase an electric furnace if their current furnace is electric-powered — and a natural gas-powered unit if their current heating system operates on gas — the reality is that new furnaces today are available with a wide variety of features, BTU, and AFUE specifications.


Sounds like alphabet soup, right? What are these acronyms and what do they mean when it comes to heating your home? We’ll explain.



“BTU” stands for British thermal unit, and it’s the measure of how much energy is required to raise the temperature in your home by one degree. So, how many BTUs should you be looking for in your replacement unit? This will vary depending on several factors, including the size of your home, insulation in place, the height of your home’s ceilings, how efficient your windows/doors are at keeping warm air in and cold air out, as well as the location of your home.


An example of BTU sizing would be — you live in a moderately sized home in the Midwest where you don’t experience extremely cold weather in the winter, but it still gets fairly chilly. You’d likely need a replacement furnace with a BTU rating between 60,000 and 80,000. This would be an average heating system. Alternatively, if you live in the upper northeast, have a very large home, and experience dangerously cold temperatures in the winter, you’d likely need a higher BTU rating for your new furnace.


AFUE ratio

“AFUE” stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency, and is essentially the measure of heat produced by a furnace for every dollar of fuel consumed. The minimum AFUE ratio is 80, which is set as standard by the U.S. Department of Energy.


The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace will be. A higher AFUE ratio on a new furnace may cost you a bit more upfront, but it may actually save you in the long run on your monthly utility bills during the heating season.


Choosing a replacement furnace

Your expectation may be that you can quickly choose a new furnace based on your budget and the old unit’s fuel source. This isn’t necessarily true.


The reality is that furnaces available today come with a wide variety of features, including specialized air filtration components. This is especially important to take into consideration if you have family members who suffer from allergies or respiratory problems, such as asthma. You will also want to take a look at the AFUE ratio and BTU of potential replacement units so that you can get the most bang for your buck with an efficient unit that won’t cost you a fortune to use when it comes to your monthly energy bills.


Replacement furnace installation

If you consider yourself fairly handy and like to tackle do-it-yourself projects on weekends, your expectation may be that you can take care of the replacement furnace job on your own. Don’t do it!


The reality is that any work involving your heating system is best left to trained professionals. They will be able to safely remove your existing furnace and get the new one installed and tested. He or she will test the new natural-gas or electric-powered unit to ensure that the system is firing up as it should to warm your home efficiently and safely.


Protect your new furnace

Your expectation with a new furnace may be that you won’t need to contend with any breakdowns in the near future. While that’s hopefully true, it’s best to be safe and have an extra measure of protection in place and ready just in case a problem with the system arises.


At Pivotal Home Solutions, we provide homeowners with plans to help with keeping these vital appliances working as well as possible. Our Heating Maintenance Plan lets you schedule an annual tune-up to keep your system running at peak efficiency, and our Heating Repair Plan allows you to simply pick up the phone and give us a call whenever there’s a covered problem. We will send a trusted, experienced heating professional to diagnose and treat the issue as quickly as possible.