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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Big Differences in Furnace Estimates

    We must replace our old oil furnace with a new, 90%+, hot-air gas furnace.

    We have four widely different proposals. They vary from a 115K Goodman to twinned 80K Carrier Infinity Series. Prices go from about $5,500 for a Bryant 3 stage 355CAV060120, to nearly $7,000 for 2 Rheems RGRL 07EMEAS furnaces, to $7,400 for the Goodman 2 stage 115K, up to about $10,000 for the 2 Carrier 58MVC 80K units. These include filter cabinets, piping, duct work, removal of large old furnace and of two 275 gallon oil tanks.

    Guesses about the size of the furnace vary from a bit over 100K to 160K. The wide range worries me.

    Part of the difficulty in estimating the proper size of the furnace is the house. It was built in 1815 with 16" limestone walls and mostly original windows. Despite a lot of recent work, there are still plenty of air leaks. And the building is big, 40' by 50'.

    Another difficulty in estimating how much furnace we need is that we live n the 2nd floor and the 1st is used for storing antiques and books for a part-time business. We cut the dampers to the 1st floor almost completely off and send the heat to the 2nd.

    We are in our 70s and will have to relinquish the property within the next decade or so. We want what we do to be useful to the next owners. They are likely to be commercial--this will be encouraged by the village planning. The village we live in is a bit outside Lancaster, PA.

    Finally, the offer that seems the best value--the 2 Rheems furnaces--is by a one-man shop, operating out of his house. He is a Ruud distributor, involved in HAVC for many years, and has good references for his recent work, but he has been on his own only since 2007 or 2008. And can one man properly service the installation? If a Rheem distributor has to take over, will they be resentful we didn't buy from them?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008

    Default Re: Big Differences in Furnace Estimates


    Yes, getting estimates and quotes can be a tedious process, but it is very necessary to go thru this very important stage of your heating equipment purchase---I always encourage homeowners to get at least 6 or more estimates because of the very different quotes and brands of equipment and equipment configurations that are suggested by the prospective installer.

    It's a valuable learning experience for the homeowner because big bucks are involved and you will have to live with the equipment & the one who did the install for a number of years.

    Don't forget to consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors", or even call the furnace mfgr (800 numbers or e-mail)---they will recommend someone in your area they know to do the install---your local heating parts/equipment counter is an excellent place to get the name of several installers (Yellow Pages under "Heating Equipment--Parts").

    You can also Google the furnace mfgr part numbers of the furnace quotes you have already to get a list of ****** prices, quality reviews, etc. on the equipment quoted---as the one listed below.

    Also Google "gas furnaces product list" (with quotes) to get a long list of "Energy Star" furnaces that run more efficiently & will list the model numbers & AFUE efficiency ratings---if a furnace on the list is rated at 85% AFUE it means 15% of the heat goes up the chimney & is wasted---if a furnace is rated at 95% AFUE it means only 5% of the heat goes up the chimney.

    You're looking for an installer who is courteous, respectful, & will not pressure you in any way to do the install "right away", and will be able to advise you of the tax credits available on the new equipment---and also will do a HEAT LOSS CALCULATION of your building so that you will know the correct size of the furnace to be installed---neither too big or too small.

    A HLC (manual J) is a computer driven calculation of how many btu's of heat are escaping from your building on a cold day (design temperature)---usually the coldest days of the year in your area---it takes into account the condition and number of windows, the type of exterior walls, the amount of insulation in the exterior walls & attic, the total square footage of the space to be heated, foundation type, prevailing winds, etc.---each prospective installer must do a HLC if they are to accurately know what size furnace to put in---otherwise they're just guessing---and you'll pay for the next 20 years if they put in a furnace that's too large.

    A ballpark figure based on your sq.footage of 2000 sq.ft. (50 X 40) and your location is to assign a certain number of BTUs per square foot for your heating needs based on the condition of the building---multiply the square footage by a number between 25 and 70 to get the total heat loss of the building on a cold day, and thus, the size of the furnace/furnaces you need.

    The number 25 btu per sq.ft. would be for a very tight house, new double-pane windows, lots of insulation, tight exterior walls, no drafts, etc.---30, 35, and 40 would also be for reasonably tight houses---as you get up to 50, 60 or 70 these reflect drafty, uninsulated houses that would need a larger furnace to heat the building.

    2000 X 25 = 50,000 btu/hr furnace needed.
    2000 X 35 = 70,000 btu/hr furnace.
    2000 X 40 = 80,000 btu/hr furnace.
    2000 X 50 = 100,000 btu/hr furnace.
    2000 X 60 = 120,000 btu/hr furnace.

    It sounds from your post that you have stone exterior walls, but anything you can do NOW to tighten up your home BEFORE buying the furnace will greatly help save fuel costs & enable you to buy a smaller furnace.

    Believe me, by October you'll know the installer to select---he'll charge you a reasonable price, do a good job, & put something in of quality that will keep the house warm.

    The Carrier, Bryant and Rheem furnaces you mention are all good mfgrs--also American Standard, Heil, Thermopride, Trane, York, & Weil McLain----I've heard some questionable things about Goodman that would scare me away.

    A number of mfgrs have bought out other brands---Payne, Bryant and Day & Night are all subs of Carrier, as I think Heil, Tempstar & Arcoair are also.

    Tempstar, Ducane & Armstrong have interchangeable parts, or parts easy to obtain---others like Carrier have proprietary parts that are often harder to get locally in a pinch.

    It's important to find a good installer who will be on call to fix the furnace in the event of a problem, instead of focusing on one particular brand of furnace.

    Last edited by NashuaTech; 09-08-2009 at 06:13 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Re: Big Differences in Furnace Estimates

    Thanks for the advice.

    I should have indicated that my building is two story, with duct work running to the 1st and 2nd floors. It has a full basement and a finished attic that is 50' by 22', with baseboard heat when needed and some insulation. And the stone walls are close to 20", not 16".

    If you use 2000 X 2 X 60 for a drafty house, it gives 240,000, which probably explains why no one wants to do a Manual J. I'm pretty sure they have based their estimates on the 200,000 BTU oil furnace, supposedly with 75% efficiency.

    We are sweater people during the winter and don't expect any 70 degrees, but the next owners may not be. I am looking for a more flexible solution than our first proposal of a 115K, if 2 stage furnace.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Fayette County, Ohio

    Default Re: Big Differences in Furnace Estimates

    Personally, I'm not that sold on the 90+ units. From the information I have been able to collect from friends and neighbors that own them, the fuel savings are eaten up by service costs. Personally I would stick with an 80% unit.
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Re: Big Differences in Furnace Estimates

    With 80%, you can get bigger BTUs, and for less money, but they don't qualify for the $1500 tax credit. And our fuel usage here is too high. The other problem is I no longer trust the chimney that was used for the existing furnace. I have to be able to exhaust out of a cellar window hole.

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