Shop for an Oil Furnace
When we bought our house five years ago, we replaced the refrigerator, the stove, and the dishwasher. The water heater and air conditioner were relatively new, so we left them as were. The only item that should have been replaced at that time but we didn’t was the furnace. From the outside, the furnace looked old, but the previous owner had it serviced every year and the maintenance records showed that the furnace still had a pretty good fuel efficiency rating. But the main reason that I didn’t get a new furnace back then was the cost: Comparing to other appliances, the cost of a furnace was much higher. Besides, we didn’t plan to stay in this house for long. So we figured we could go through without having to have a new furnace.
Four winters have gone and our furnace did what we expected it to do: Keep us warm without any trouble, but only until last week. Last Tuesday morning when we woke up, there was a smell in the house that we didn’t have before. The thermostat was set on On, but no hot air. When I tried to manually restart the furnace, it failed and the smell of the heating oil kept coming out from the vents. So I had to shut the furnace down and call in to maintenance to replace yet another part, the third in a month The furnace was working for that day, but failed to start again the next morning. At that time, we knew the time has finally come. According to the last technician, our GE furnace could be at least 25 years old, could be the original one installed when the house was built. It has worked long and hard for the house and now it’s time to retire it.
In fact, GE no longer makes furnace any more. From the above picture, you can see how old it is.
Anyway, the next task is to find a dealer to install a quality furnace for us quickly. Exactly which brand is better, I have no idea. It’s getting cold here, so we want it replaced ASAP.
But I have never shopped for a furnace before, only knowing the unit we will get has to be efficient. After Googling a few things like “how to buy an oil furnace” and “efficient oil furnace,” etc, I got some ideas of what to look for. First, the contractor. There are quite a few contractors in this area, but I didn’t know any and have no idea who’s good and who’s not. So instead of going to a small contractor, I decided to first check out the two local oil companies that I know, one supplies our heating oil, the other doesn’t.
The first company came last Wednesday to give us an estimate. The oil furnace they use is Thermo Pride OH6FA072D48B. Considering the size of the house, they recommended a Low Fire unit with output BTUH 60,000 and fuel efficiency 84.0%. The total installation cost is $3,795 plus $150 for the permit from the township and $270 for chimney inspection. They also recommended an optional GE ECM (Electronically Commutated Motor) variable speed motor to save more on energy (according to the brochure, it could save up to $620 annually in this area), but it comes with $600 price tag. The unit’s standard blower motor is constant speed, but it can be set at different speed at installation. If we get everything including the ECM motor, the total cost will be $4,815. However, if I choose them, I don’t have to make the payment at once. I can half the installation cost when signing the contract and the rest in 12 months interest free.
The second company uses Armstrong Air LUF80C84 (Armstrong Air is a Lennox company) with 85,000 output BTUH and 81.0% fuel efficiency. The total installation cost is $3,900 plus $150 for the permit. They didn’t mention anything about chimney inspection though. The payment option isn’t that sweet: $1,000 down when signing the contract and no payment for six months.
From the total cost and efficiency of the unit, the choice seems to be obvious. But what about the unit itself? Which one can save more on energy? According to the qualified oil furnace list on energystar.gov, the Thermo Pride model meets Energy Star guidelines (oil and gas furnaces have annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings of 83% and 90%, or higher), but not the Armstrong Air unit.
After comparing both the cost and fuel efficiency, we decided to go with the first oil company and get the Thermo Pride furnace which also comes with 10 year parts warranty (Armstrong Air unit only has 5 year warranty on parts) and a better payment option, but without the ECM motor. I can pay all the cost at once if I have to, but the option is available, so why not? Plus, since I am already a customer, they are not going to run a credit check or anything like that. If they do, then I probably won’t take the interest free offer.
Without any further delay, I signed the contract with the first company this Monday and made $1,995 down payment with my Fidelity 529 College Rewards card (yes, I will get 2% back). The new furnace will be installed tomorrow.
This is one thing that we should have done when we bought the house, so we could have enjoyed the new furnace for five years and saved some money on heating oil Nonetheless, I am still happy that our house will soon be warm again
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