Comfort That’s Worth the Cost
Customers, contractors benefit from an array of new options
Premium furnaces today feature more than just highly efficient performance. Most come with a wide range of options designed to improve a user’s experience, comfort, and IAQ, including modulating gas valves, variable-speed blowers, connectivity, and more.
In addition to improving comfort and efficiency for homeowners, premium features offer benefits to contractors, as well. Self-diagnostics help technicians install and service units quickly and more accurately, and smart furnaces can send alerts if they require service or maintenance. High-end furnaces are also an important part of the whole-house comfort solution and can help HVAC contractors set themselves apart from their competition.
FOCUS ON COMFORT
High-end furnaces tend to be sold by high-end contractors who address the entire home and not just a single HVAC element, said John Remley, product manager, Nortek Global HVAC. “A contractor who’s comfortable selling and installing high-end furnaces will also most likely know how to properly commission systems, address potential ductwork issues, and make sure comfort is maximized in the home, thus increasing customer satisfaction.”
The highest-end furnace offered by Nortek Global HVAC is its 97 percent-plus AFUE iQ Drive® modulating furnace offered in 60,000- to 120,000-Btu capacities. Model FG7MQ is available in Broan, Frigidaire, NuTone, Tappan, and Westinghouse brands, and Model PGC2MQ is available in the Maytag brand. All contain features that include modulating heating operation, an iQ Drive controller, and a variable-speed inducer and blower.
“The iQ Drive modulating furnace analyzes the indoor temperature every 60 seconds and adjusts its firing rate accordingly. The modulating gas valve works in 5 percent increments from 100 to 50 percent input,” said Remley. “The proprietary thermostat, the iQ Drive controller, features advanced humidity settings, system alerts, and diagnostics for contractors. The variable-speed inducer ensures maximum efficiency with reduced operating noise while the variable-speed blower allows the furnace to ramp smoothly up and down, providing a quieter and more comfortable home environment.”
From quiet operation to highly efficient performance, high-end furnaces offer enhanced comfort and energy savings when compared to conventional systems, saving hundreds of dollars each year, said Kim Do, heating product manager, Lennox Intl. Inc. “While a variety of Lennox Elite and Signature models offer high-end features, such as a variable-speed blower and multiple heating stages, the SLP98V is the only Lennox furnace that offers a modulating gas valve to precisely maintain temperatures within 0.5°F of the selected temperature. Additionally, it has heating efficiencies up to 98.7 percent AFUE and offers a variable-speed blower, Wi-Fi connectivity, dual-fuel capabilities, and Lennox’s exclusive SilentComfort technology.”
The variable-speed blower offers benefits, such as increased energy savings, better SEER efficiency, and improved IAQ by continuously circulating air slowly and allowing filters to capture more contaminants while in constant operation, said Do. “When installed with Lennox’s iComfort S30, Wi-Fi connectivity allows remote control access to adjust temperature and control energy costs from anywhere using a mobile device. Additionally, performance reports bring visibility to a system’s energy use on the thermostat, mobile app, or Web portal site allowing a homeowner to adjust settings to improve both comfort and efficiency, as needed.”
Comfort and efficiency are the main reasons homeowners invest in high-end furnaces, said J. Kelly Hearnsberger, vice president of product marketing, Goodman Global Group, adding that quiet operation and IAQ are high on the list, as well. “Goodman’s GMVM97 modulating gas furnace meets all those needs, as it features up to 98 percent AFUE; a self-calibrating, modulating gas valve; an efficient and quiet variable-speed airflow system; multiple continuous fan options; an electronic control board with self-diagnostics; and compatibility with the ComfortNet™ communicating system.”
ComfortNet communicating controls work with Goodman-brand electronically commutated motor (ECM)-based furnaces and air handlers as well as 16- and 18-SEER two-stage air conditioners and heat pumps. For homeowners, ComfortNet offers advanced diagnostics, automatic maintenance alerts, and continuous monitoring of the system’s performance, said Hearnsberger, while dealers appreciate the controls’ simplified installation wiring and active system diagnostics.
Replacing a furnace can be intimidating for a homeowner, who may only go through the process once or twice in a lifetime. Making sure the furnace will perform exceptionally for the rest of its life while providing comfort, efficiency, and worry-free operation are some of the reasons Trane recently designed its first new furnace platform in nearly 25 years, said Jim Lowell, gas furnace product manager, Trane. “The new S-Series is a highly advanced furnace that was designed and exhaustively tested to exceed the most stringent dealer and homeowner expectations. We have kept the DNA of quality, reliability, and durability from our legacy furnace line but also ensured the S-Series furnace can meet performance requirements far into the future.”
The first offering of the S-Series platform — the S9V2 — is a two-stage, variable-speed, 96 percent AFUE furnace with models ranging 40,000-120,000 Btu. The S9V2 features the Vortica® II blower for quiet and efficient circulation in both heating and cooling seasons, and the two-stage gas valve improves the temperature consistency within the home, providing added comfort, said Lowell. “As the most electrically efficient furnace we’ve ever made, homeowners don’t have to compromise between reducing their energy bills and improving their comfort.”
BELLS AND WHISTLES
Some contractors may worry that all these features just translate into more complexity and confusion when it comes to installing and servicing furnaces, but most manufacturers say nothing could be further from the truth. Hearnsberger noted that, when installed with a ComfortNet Control, the installation wiring is simplified compared to a standard furnace installation. “The system also provides advanced diagnostics, which can help a contractor diagnose potential issues quicker and more easily than many standard systems.”
Additionally, the GMVM97 models feature an internal drain tap that can easily be connected to either side of the furnace, a vertical gas valve for easy field connection, or a silicon nitride ignitor, which contributes to easier installation and servicing, said Hearnsberger.
Advanced controls definitely make the furnace smarter, which makes it easier to install and service, said Do. “When the SLP98V and the iComfort S30 are integrated, the iComfort mobile setup app lets technicians remotely monitor and adjust the system during setup without walking back and forth between the thermostat and indoor/outdoor unit. At the touch of a button, technicians can commission the system, adjust parameters, and run system tests. Installation reports are generated when a system is installed to confirm everything was done correctly.”
Features, such as remote monitoring and troubleshooting, allow contractors to be aware of issues before they happen, address problems remotely, improve serviceability, and ensure they always have the right resources for the job, said Do.
From the day Trane began designing the S-Series platform, Lowell noted the company wanted to make sure that, along with performance, the furnace was easy and intuitive to install and service. “We utilized the vast knowledge of our Furnace Dealer Council throughout the design process to help us develop a product that works in the widest variety of applications. It’s the easiest furnace to install and service we’ve ever produced.”
While high-end furnaces are similar to two-stage furnaces, in respect to the number of components, Remley noted some components are more complex. “Furnaces linked to a communicating thermostat, like our iQ Drive controller, can be more challenging to install and service; however, the rewards far outweigh the efforts when the installation is done properly.”
That is because high-end furnaces have numerous benefits for both the contractor and the homeowner. For the homeowner, a properly installed high-end furnace will ultimately save them money and add a lot of comfort to the home, said Remley. “And, for contractors, if they can exceed a homeowner’s expectations with a new furnace, that homeowner is more likely to share their experience and recommend that contractor to friends and family, thereby helping the contractor grow his or her business.”
Publication date: 11/30/2015