Choosing the Best Furnace and Air Conditioner

Choosing the Best Furnace and Air Conditioner
Arne Jacobsen
Residential Sales Professional

I have been in heating and air conditioning trade for 44 years. In that time, I have installed, serviced, designed ductwork, sold, and sized thousands of residential heating and cooling systems.

About This Article

How do you know what air conditioner or furnace you’ll need in your home? What factors determine which will be the best for you?

The time has come for your next HVAC project. The air conditioner has died each of the last three years. Or your furnace is 30 years old and you’re pretty sure it’s time for an upgrade.

You haven’t had to think about heating and cooling for years or decades. Or maybe ever, if this is your first home. So where do you start?

Like many, you probably call a handful of HVAC companies to have them quote you pricing, and you pick an option in your budget.

This is fine; it’ll get the job done. But sometimes you’re not actually getting the best system for yourself.

How do you know what’s best? That’s what we’re here for. You see, some companies won’t actually take the time to figure out what’s best for you, because they’re more interested in making a sale than in finding your perfect fit. So let’s give you the tools you need to get the best.

The Trane XV18

“What’s the Best Air Conditioner and Furnace for Me?”

I get this question a lot from homeowners. And my response is generally the same: “Let’s figure it out together.”

It’s probably frustrating to hear “it depends” when asking what’s best for you. But it only depends until we start to drill down and ask the right questions. So what questions are those? I’m glad you asked...

As part of our estimate process, we talk with people about what we call “comfort concerns.” We want to know your pain points when it comes to home comfort, to be able to craft a solution that will work for them. Here are some of the things we ask about:

ONE: Do you have hot or cold spots in your home? Any rooms that are too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter?

I like to call this one “the master bedroom question.” When people answer “yes” to the question, 9 times out of 10, it’s because their master bedroom is far too hot in the summer.

Sometimes this can be solved with a more powerful air conditioner or ductwork modifications. More often, however, it’s due to airflow, which means a two-stage air conditioner or variable-speed air conditioner will be able to better cool ALL parts of the home.

These systems can operate at a lower power level, which means the system will run longer. This is a good thing, though, because that time gives the air in the home a chance to circulate better, which produces a more even temperature throughout the home. If your second floor is routinely 10-15 degrees warmer in the summer, it may be time to think about adding this type of sophistication to your HVAC system.

TWO: Does anyone in the home have allergies? How severe are they? Is it year-round (pets, etc.) or seasonal?

We can’t get rid of allergic reactions, but we can get rid of a LOT of allergens in your home’s air. How? A couple of ways:

  1. Better filtration. Not all furnace filters are created equal, and it makes a difference in the air you breathe.
  2. Dehumidification. Your air conditioner actually dehumidifies your home quite a bit. It’s a big part of how it cools the home. And humidity levels in the summer can affect allergens in the air. Getting a system that dehumidifies better can be a huge boost to your overall comfort.

THREE: Moisture problems in the basement?

Again, dehumidification is a huge part of what HVAC is all about, especially in the summer months. The type of air conditioner you get can affect how dry your home is during the summer.

Sometimes, though, an air conditioner alone won’t do the job, regardless of how good it is. If you struggle with excessive moisture or even flooding, you might benefit from a whole-home dehumidifier. We’ll talk more about this below, but this is a question that can have multiple “right” answers depending on your situation.

RELATED: Is a Whole-Home Dehumidifier Right for Me?

FOUR: Does it get excessively dry in the winter? Do you want to fix that?

On the flip side of the humidity spectrum is dry air. The winter months can be very dry. Sure, static shock is annoying, but did you know that viruses live a lot longer in the air when the air is dry? Keeping the moisture levels within recommended ranges can be the difference between a healthy winter and your whole family getting sick.

FIVE: How long do you plan on staying in your home?

Why should this matter? Well, the most expensive system will also feature the best long-term cost savings. So if you’re selling a home within 5 years, you’ll never recoup your investment. But if you plan on being in the same home for 10-20 years, these advanced models will produce the best long-term comfort and cost savings. If you’re looking to sell your home, for example, but need to replace some equipment, we don’t recommend a sophisticated model. You’ll never see the full benefits. But in other cases, all options should be on the table to start.

SIX: Is anyone immunocompromised or have health risks?

I mentioned how dry air can cause viruses to spread, and if you have at-risk people in your home, it may be time for extra measures to ensure the safety of your family. Check out the indoor air quality section below, where we dig fully into this topic.

Air conditioner in a lawn

At the end of these questions, and figuring out your personal answers to them, we’re closer to an answer, but need to investigate a bit further.

HVAC Equipment Matching

HVAC systems aren’t all compatible with one another. Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with the brand of equipment (at least not usually). Rather, it has to do with how advanced the equipment is.

Your blower motor is the device in your furnace that moves the air for both the furnace and the air conditioner. If your air conditioner can operate at 2 different speeds, but the blower motor can only operate at 1 speed, there’s a mismatch in equipment. Some air conditioners can even operate at up to 500 different speeds! So this is important when getting the most out of your system.

Older furnaces usually have what’s called a split-phase motor, and these can only go 1 speed. So if you’re installing a new air conditioner and have a split-phase motor, you’re limited in the number of models that will be compatible.

What’s the solution? Well, the good news is, there’s always something that will be compatible with your system. But it might not be what you want.

This is why it’s sometimes wise to replace your furnace and AC at the same time. It’s not required, of course, but can come with both financial and operational benefits.

RELATED: Do I Need to Replace My AC and Furnace at the Same Time?

Indoor Air Quality - Can the AC and Furnace Handle It?

The questions listed above suggest certain solutions, depending on the answers. Often, a new air conditioner and/or furnace will be enough to give you dramatic improvements. Other times, they’ll get you part of the way to optimal comfort, but not 100% of the way.

That’s where indoor air quality (or IAQ) products come in. Air purifiers, upgraded filters, humidifiers and dehumidifiers can dramatically improve your quality of life. They are part of many “best” HVAC solutions.

Will these IAQ products always be needed? No, of course not. And you may only need 1 of the items listed above, instead of all 4. But if I’m being honest (which I always try to be), nearly every home could benefit greatly from at least 1 of these.

Financing and Budgeting for HVAC Equipment

The equipment is only one half of the equation, though. The other half? Finances.

Look, HVAC systems aren’t cheap. We realize this, and do everything we can to work with homeowners to find a solution that will satisfy both their comfort needs and their financial limitations. If an option doesn’t serve both your comfort and your wallet, it’s not really a solution at all.

So what does this mean in practice? Surprisingly, it doesn’t always mean you’ll have to settle for a cheaper AC or furnace than you want. We can solve this in a number of ways:

ONE: Total Cost

For some, the total cost is the biggest cost factor, and in these instances, you really might want to start looking at entry-level models that will only be single-stage. Many of these are still huge improvements over older or broken-down systems, so it’s often not a sacrifice to choose them. But they also won’t provide the same long-term cost savings and comfort of the most complex models.

TWO: Monthly Payments

We have a variety of financing options, and some of them are catered to homeowners who don’t mind a little bit of interest, so long as their monthly payment stays low. In this case, you may be able to choose from a wide variety of equipment types.

THREE: Long-Term Financing

We offer 0% financing for up to 72 months for those who qualify. This gives many families a large cushion of time for paying off a heating and cooling project. This is heavily dependent on things like your credit score, but can open the door for any type of equipment as part of your project.

How Much Does HVAC Cost?

Ever get the runaround from a company when you ask about price? Yeah, that’s annoying. It’s also why we’re upfront with all of our pricing. Check out our pricing guides below for some ranges you can expect:

HVAC Brand and Model Options

Does brand matter? Does the model? Sort of.

Any major HVAC brand is going to be comfortable and reliable enough for 99% of homes. The biggest difference in quality isn’t the brand you choose, but the company that installs it. Poor installation practices are responsible for a lot more problems than any particular HVAC brand.

RELATED: Cutting Corners: A Look at the Best and Worst HVAC Company Practices in Columbus, OH

Models can matter quite a bit more, because now we’re talking about the sophistication of the equipment and options available to you. Is it compatible with wifi thermostats? Would your home be best served with a variable-speed system that can heat and cool at numerous power levels? Do you need to have an all-electric system, gas system, or a hybrid fuel source system?

These are the questions that will get you to a specific make and model that best meets your needs. Any reputable HVAC contractor will have a full suite of models that meets these needs. We also have a bunch of product reviews to help you dive deeply into specific options. I’ve included a couple below, and would encourage you to continue to research on models that seem attractive to you.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Choosing the Right AC and Furnace

Have an idea of what might be best for you? We hope so. If you walk yourself through these questions and options, you’ll probably be pretty close.

This is the same type of process we go through with customers when we visit their homes. At the beginning, I said “let’s figure it out together,” and I truly believe that. The best solutions are found with all the information and options you need to make the selection that’s right for you.

If you’re ready to zero in on the best model and options for your home, we’re ready to help you out. Our sales representatives will take you through your options, and present you with a variety of solutions for you to make the one that’s best for you.

Get started below by typing in your zip code and reaching out to us. We’re looking forward to discovering your ideal air conditioner and/or furnace together!

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