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To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade (Your Heating System): That is the Question.

Heating Equipment - Preventative Maintenance

Are you dreading winter because of the cold temperatures…inside? Are you unsure about whether you should install a new heating system…and if so, what steps to take? H.B. McClure visits more than 150 homes per week. We get a lot of questions from Central PA homeowners about their heating systems and whether or not they should install a new heat pump, furnace, boiler, etc. With winter approaching, we wanted to give you some tips on how to identify if your heating system needs upgraded and outline your next best steps. Here are some questions we frequently hear when we’re providing estimates, installing new heating equipment or providing service to hundreds of homeowners every week.

 Is it time to update my heating system? This is a question we hear a lot. It often means that the homeowner is uncomfortable during the winter time or is confused by efficiency ratings. Yes, heating systems (heat pumps, furnaces, boilers, etc.) are becoming more and more efficient. But that does not mean you need to replace your system as the technology advanced. If your current heating system is less than 8 years old, you probably won’t see much of a difference in your utility bills if you upgrade to a higher efficiency unit. In these cases, if the homeowner still expresses a lack of comfort during the winter months, we’ll troubleshoot for other possible causes such as improperly maintained equipment. Clogged filters and heat exchangers and dirty duct work can reduce efficiency by up to 15%. Duct leakage or poor envelope insulation are other common causes of lack of comfort and high energy costs. 

If we decide we need a new heating system, how much can we expect to spend? That depends. Systems range in cost based on unit size and efficiency. A new heat pump from a leading brand like Lennox, Trane or Amana can start at around $3,800.00. Leading gas furnaces (such as Amana, Lennox, Trane) can start at just over $2,000.00. Oil furnaces (such as Frigidaire) can start at $2,600.00. Oil and gas boilers (Buderus and Peerless are both strong brands) begin at about $4,300.00. Geothermal? This is a question we hear a lot. Geothermal systems still qualify for a 30% federal tax credit. So if you are looking to replace a furnace or air-source heat pump with a new geothermal you net cost, including site work, could be well under $10,000. For a leading Geothermal system (such as ClimateMaster) and the payback is about 8 years. Plus, a Geothermal system is an attractive selling point for your home so if you’re planning on moving in the next 5 years, this is a point to consider. Another benefit that is often overlooked is sound. Geothermal systems are incredibly quiet. Cost is primarily contingent on efficiency ratings and size. Budget is an important consideration, but so is selecting the properly sized unit. This is where the help of an independent consultant is invaluable. When selecting a unit, be certain that you are not selecting from brands that are presented to you because of sales incentives. Put another way, some HVAC estimators receive financial incentives when they sell specific brands. This is not necessarily bad. But it may mean that you aren’t being given a full range of options – or being directed toward the system that best meets your needs. FYI, H.B. McClure estimators and comfort consultants do not receive any financial incentives or bonuses based on the equipment they specify. They are truly independent. 

How long will my new system last? This question usually means that someone has installed a system that did not last as long as they hoped. Or, they are concerned about up-front cost vs. payback. Here are two things to consider: Your budget will not only dictate the efficiency rate of the system you’ll be able to install but the accompanying warranties. Most leading brands offer top-notch warranties and you can expect your unit to last at least 10 to 15 years or more. Preventive maintenance (and service agreement) is critical to your new heating system’s health. We strongly urge you to purchase a Comfort Contract or annual service agreement at the time of heating system installation. Service contracts are designed to prevent costly problems and keep your new system operating at peak efficiency. 

How many estimates should I get? Three is usually fine, any more than 5 can become confusing. In Central Pennsylvania, most of the leading HVAC contractors offer the same or very similar brands. Often, there is less price differential that what you might expect when you are securing and comparing estimates. Where you may see a difference is in service agreements or in financing. Do not assume you are comparing prices as apple to apple costs. We strongly believe method of installation is far more important than the brand of equipment. Cutting corners to be the lowest installation cost often results higher cost of operation and potential service headaches down the road. Naturally we’re biased but we urge you to include us on your list. With nearly 100 years of experience, unbiased comfort consultants, the leading brands in our product line up and price competitiveness, we are uniquely positioned to meet your heating needs. At H.B. McClure you can count on no hassles – just heat.