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Your Place: Contractor Matters as Much as HVAC System Quality

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By Alan J. Heavens

contractor_HVAC_system(MCT)—Q: We live in a three-story Victorian twin (house) and are going to switch from oil to gas. I have a few concerns:

• One is whether the higher-efficiency furnaces with annual fuel-utilization efficiency (AFUE) above 94 percent are reliable and worth the extra money?

• Another question: Should we install central air at this time, as well?

• And finally, are there any furnaces you would recommend or brands we should stay away from?

• I understand from doing some research that the installer is as important as the furnace. Do you agree?

A: Last question first: You better believe it. I don’t care how top-of-the-line an HVAC system is, if the installer is a dud and doesn’t stand by his work, you will most likely be throwing lots of money down the ductwork. Which furnace is better? That question should be answered by an entity with a professional research staff — Consumer Reports, for example.

Early on, I had issues with my Lennox HVAC system that were solved by a firm my plumber said he’d heard good things about — not the same people who installed it. Two of my neighbors have Tranes; another one, York. They, too, say reliable service is as much the key to success as the brand. Do your research.

I would install central air-conditioning, especially if you are putting in ductwork anyway. Make sure that whatever central-air system is installed will cool the entire house, not just the first two floors. That could require zoned heating and cooling for greater efficiency. You don’t want to spend all that money then have window units sticking out of the third floor in summer.

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