SHAWNEE, Kan. - Furnace installations may not be on the top of a contractor’s list in the midst of the cooling season, but providing comfort before it is needed may be an excellent business strategy for those who can find the time. Waiting until the weather turns cold could leave a customer searching for ways to get warm and stay warm.
Nancy Osborne is one of those customers who waited until the winter to figure out how to stay warm and comfortable.
“Before the new furnace was installed, the only way to get warm when I was cold was to stand in front of the vent,” she noted. “I knew it was time to replace my 80-plus-year old gas furnace.”
INSTALL CHALLENGESOsborne did her homework, researching contractors and equipment. Eventually she hired James Gallet, owner of Envirotech Heating & Cooling in Shawnee, Kan., to remove her old unit and install a York® heating and cooling system.
Original to her 1920s house, the old furnace leaked, ran inefficiently, and because many of its parts were no longer available, presented repair challenges to service technicians. In addition, pipes leading from the furnace were covered in asbestos and the furnace sat in a basement with low ceilings, presenting challenges to the installation of a new furnace.
To overcome some of these challenges, Gallet chose a new system that includes an Affinity™ 33-inch modulating gas furnace with a 97 percent AFUE rating.
“Now, the whole house is warm - not hot, but comfortably warm. I just don’t get cold anymore,” she said. “The house stays consistently warm, and it does so quietly. In fact, when the furnace was first installed, I wondered if it was even running. That’s how quiet it was.”
SIZE MATTERSOsborne is not only reaping the benefits of comfort, she is also reaping the benefits of improved efficiency.
“I immediately noticed a difference in my utility bill,” she said. “My bills are at least a third or more of what they used to be, and much to my relief, the new furnace easily fits where the old one stood, with room to spare.”
“That’s the beauty of the smaller 33-inch cabinet,” noted Gallet. “It’s easy to install and service, and works for just about any application, even in the short basements that are common in older homes in our service area.”
Relative to size, the smaller furnaces also make delivery of a system easier, since the entire system can fit in a service van.
“The installation guys like it,” Gallet said, “because they can stand the furnace up in the back of a full-size van and still be able to fit in all the other material and equipment that they need for the day, eliminating the need to pull a trailer around town.”
But it’s what Gallet describes as the comfort factor that originally appealed to him when York introduced its line of modulating gas furnaces. “The furnace runs about 80 percent of the time,” explained Gallet. “As a result, it eliminates the hot and cold temperature swings that you normally experience with a single-stage furnace.
“I explain it to my customers by comparing the operation of the furnace to driving a car. I can drive to Wichita (about three hours from Shawnee) going 100 miles per hour (mph) and periodically slam on the breaks and sit on the interstate for several minutes before flooring it again. That’s the way a standard single-stage furnace works. It’s either running at 100 percent, or it’s off.
“My other option is to set the cruise control at 65 mph and get to Wichita without stopping. In both cases, I’ll arrive in three hours, but the ride going a consistent 65 mph is going to be far less stressful and more comfortable. The modulating furnace is like driving a car on cruise control. It keeps a home consistently comfortable.”
MAKING IT PERSONALGallet speaks from personal experience. Last year he changed out his 92 percent AFUE furnace with a new 97 percent modulating unit, reducing his gas bill by 20 to 25 percent and enjoying the consistent heat the unit delivers.
“I like to install new equipment in my home and the homes of people I know before I begin selling it,” he said. “I was really pleased with the utility savings, which were more significant than I anticipated, and the modulating technology keeps my house comfortable and quiet. Sometimes I can’t hear it running.”
As a result, Gallet has no problems selling the York modulating gas furnace to his customers.
“From a contractor’s perspective, it makes sense to sell these furnaces,” Gallet said, citing a number of installation and service advantages the units offer.
“Their size makes them easy to transport, install, and service. Controls are easy to access, and the furnaces are easily convertible for upflow, downflow, or horizontal applications,” he explained. “In addition, both the door and the blower are easy to remove for servicing, and built-in self diagnostics will also make servicing the units easy. I say “will” because we really haven’t had to service any of these units yet.”
To date, Gallet reports he is on target to meet his sales goals for the furnaces. “We’re offering something few other companies offer, and our customers really like the modulating furnace and hearing success stories like Nancy Osborne’s.”
The fact that the high-efficiency units qualify for federal tax credits - 30 percent of the installed cost, up to $1,500 for residential HVAC projects installed from Jan. 1, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2010 - available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 doesn’t hurt either. In some areas, state or local governments as well as local utilities may provide additional incentives that make it even more beneficial for consumers to purchase these high-efficiency products.
“The tax incentives are nice,” said Gallet. “But I think customers would buy the modulating furnaces without them. It’s the comfort they’re buying, even if it costs them a little more. They want to be comfortable, and they know that the modulating technology will also help them save money on their utility bills.”
For more information, visit www.york.com or www.johnsoncontrols.com.