Shopping for a furnace? Don't spend thousands more than necessary

After 17 years, our furnace is wearing out. Earlier this week, the blower finally seized up, so we decided to bite the bullet and shop for a new furnace. Our house requires an 80-90,000 BTU furnace.

After listening to three salespeople extol the virtues of their brands and services, I thought I'd summarize the choices and price points. Consumer Reports contends that brands mean not so much, as they are so much alike and models change so frequently. Instead, I focused on quality and price.

Types of gas furnace. These come in three levels-

  • a single-stage one like we currently have, that is either full-on or off;

  • a two-stage model, allowing the furnace to use less gas in moderate temperatures;

  • a multi-stage model that combines a two or three stage burner with a variable-speed blower that blows all the time, sometimes hard, sometimes soft, again based on need.

Furnaces also vary in the degree of efficiency, from 80% to 95%. Expect to pay more for greater efficiency, and expect your salesperson to push the value of fuel savings to offset the higher cost.

So, we have to choose among-

  • 80% efficient single-stage

  • 80% efficient two-stage

  • 80% efficient multistage

  • 90%+ efficient single-stage

  • 90%+ efficient two-stage

  • 90%+ efficient multistage (or modulating)

Are you with me so far?