Q: How do you make a good choice on the type and brand of new furnace with so many options available today? –Michael W.
A: It’s similar in many ways to evaluating and deciding on any major purchase, which is a combination of a reputable manufacturer and reputable dealer. I would begin by asking around among friends, coworkers and even your utility company, and get a list of two (or three if desired, but no more than that) reputable heating contractors in your area. Ideally, these contractors will represent at least two different lines of furnaces.
Have each contractor make a site visit to your home. It’s important that the contractor see the home, see the existing furnace and duct system, and evaluate the overall energy efficiency of your home. After that, each contractor should provide you with a detailed written estimate, including the model(s) of the furnace(s) they are recommending, plus all labor, materials and permits. If additional electrical wiring or gas piping is going to be required, make sure you know about those costs as well.
The contactors will often give you more than one option for the type of furnace they’re proposing. For a gas furnace they will offer you a couple of different efficiency levels, and for electric furnaces they may discuss the option of a heat pump. For any option they propose, ask them to explain in detail why one is preferable to another. For the most part, the more you pay for the furnace the more energy efficient it will be, so ask them to explain how the benefits of the reduced energy costs will offset the higher initial price, and ask how long it will take to recover that investment.
As you begin to narrow down the choices, be sure that you discuss the specifics of the manufacturer’s warranty. Ask how long it is, what it covers, what items might be prorated, what labor is included, etc. You can also do some online research on the specific models you’re considering, and check out independent consumer rating services.
Finally, ask for references of past clients that have had that particular furnace installed. Make a couple of calls, and ask the people how satisfied they are with the furnace, and with the level of service they received from the contractor. And of course, verify the contractor’s license, bond and insurance before signing any contracts.
Q: I currently have a gas log fireplace in my home. However, when it is on it does not produce much heat for the room (low efficiency). Is there a product that will provide more heat into the room (like a blower) that will work with my gas log set up? –Ethan B.
A: Many gas log fireplaces are set up to work with electric blowers, which will indeed increase how much heat is circulated into the room. The blower usually fits into a recess below the firebox, behind a louvered grill, and is activated by a separate switch. Depending on how the existing fireplace is wired, an add-on blower may be a simple do-it-yourself project, or you may need a fireplace technician or possibly an electrician to complete the installation.
Because there are so many different types of gas fireplaces, the blower needs to be matched to your particular fireplace. Make a note of the manufacturer, model number and serial number of your fireplace — all that information should be on a plate located somewhere on the fireplace — and take that to a dealer who carries that brand. They’ll set you up with the right blower, and assist with any installation needs.
Q: I have a client who bought a home with a tin roof that had been covered with shingles by the previous seller. My question: Should this roof be replaced? –Laurie R.
A: It’s very unusual to see shingles applied directly over an old metal roof. I can certainly see the potential for condensation and expansion problems between the two roofing materials, and since they utilize different types of flashings, I can see some leak potential as well.
In my opinion, the way to do this correctly would be to first remove both layers of existing roofing. New plywood or OSB sheathing would be installed if needed, followed by new roofing. I would also recommend a layer of ice and water protection over the eaves, and all new flashings as well. Finally, check to see if the attic has sufficient venting and that all exhaust fans are vented completely to the outside — if not, now is the ideal time to take care of those problems as well.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at email@example.com.
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