Furnace FAQs

Furnace FAQ

Answered by Our Bozeman HVAC Experts

Our team of experienced technicians at Premier Air Heating & Cooling want customers to learn as much as they can about their heating and air conditioning systems, because we want them to feel empowered to make informed decisions. Our FAQ list is a perfect resource to consult when you have questions or concerns.

Call our Bozeman HVAC team at (406) 333-0177 or contact us online.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I replace my furnace?

We have seen furnace units that were installed in the 1950s that are still functioning and heating homes here in the Gallatin Valley, but it isn’t very common. The average warranty for modern high efficiency furnaces is 10 years. You should expect your furnace unit to last anywhere from 10-20 years if it is maintained and repaired regularly.

We often forget to think of our furnace unit as a piece of equipment with moving parts that needs to be maintained much like the parts of your car. Once a furnace has reached 10 years old, your cost of ownership is going to start increasing, and typically the repair costs are going to add up quickly, making it a great time to look at upgrading to a new, more efficient furnace system. The typical rule of thumb we go by is that if you take the cost of the repair and multiply that by the age of the furnace, and that cost is more expensive than replacing the entire furnace system, then it is time to look at replacing the furnace to keep it heating your home in Bozeman.

How do I choose the right air conditioner for my home?

The best AC unit for a home depends on many variables. Below are some common situations and the best AC unit options for each.

“I need whole-home comfort”

If you are looking for a whole-home solution, you have several options. If your home has existing ductwork or you wish to install ducts, an air conditioner or heat pump can deliver the cooling you need. Without ducts, a ductless cooling system may be a viable option to provide cooling throughout your home.

“I need heating and cooling”

The best AC units for both heating and cooling would be a heat pump or a ductless air conditioner with built-in heating. Heat pumps deliver cooling by extracting heat from the home, but when temperatures are cooler outdoors, they can provide heat by working in reverse. Heat is extracted from the outdoor air and moved into your home.

Ductless systems that are paired with heat pumps work the same way, in reverse to provide heating to the zones they serve. Ductless air conditioners are available with base pan heaters to provide warmth to individual areas when needed.

“My home doesn’t have ducts”

If your home is not equipped with ductwork and you cannot or do not want to install a duct system, the best AC unit for your home would be a ductless air conditioner. Ductless air conditioners do not need ducts to deliver cooling. Air handlers are installed directly within your living spaces to produce cooling for individual zones. Single outdoor units can support multiple air handlers throughout your home depending on the system’s configuration.

“I want zoned cooling”

Each of these air conditioning systems can provide zoned cooling when configured correctly. Ductless air conditioners are an easy and affordable way to gain zoned cooling, as each air handler is installed within an area and serves the comfort needs of just that area.

Heat pumps and air conditioners can be configured with a zoning system to provide individual comfort for your living areas. A zoning system uses a network of dampers installed within the ductwork to regulate airflow to each area of the home. Individual thermostats allow users to control conditions in each zone of the home.

“I want to keep energy costs low”

Heat pumps are one of the best AC units for a home when energy costs are a concern. These units are highly efficient and use very little electricity to produce a high cooling output. They also offer affordable, efficient heating in the wintertime for a year-round comfort solution.

Air conditioners with high SEER ratings can also help keep your cooling bills under control. While the federal minimum SEER rating is 13 or 14 depending on where you live, high-efficiency air conditioners are available up to 26 SEER for maximum energy control.

If you have questions about which system is best for your home, contact Premier Air Heating & Cooling. We would be happy to come out and take a look at your home and provide you with the options that would best suit your needs and the various price points to help you match your budget.

How much does it cost to run air conditioning?

Running your air conditioning is a lot cheaper than you’d think.

In Montana, we are fortunate that we don’t need AC for long extended periods of time—typically just in the afternoons and evenings on very hot days—so our energy consumption is low.

When you determine the energy consumed by your new AC (in watts), you can figure out what it’ll cost you to run. These are the steps:

  1. Divide the BTUs of the system by the SEER rating tagged on the unit
  2. To convert this to Kwh, dividing by 1,000
  3. Multiply the Kwh your AC consumes by the number of hours it operates annually

The majority of homes in Bozeman have 3 – 4 ton systems, so you are typically looking at 36,000-48,000 BTU’s of cooling. Let’s say you have a 3 ton AC, which is pretty typical for a 1,500-2,000 square foot home. With step 1, a 36,000 BTU air conditioner at a SEER rating of 13 (the typical SEER installed in Montana) gives us 2,770 watts. Step 2, converting to Kwh, gives us 2.77 (2,770 divided by 1,000).

Imagine you run your air conditioner 8 hours a day for about 90 days a year. That’s 720 hours of AC use per year. So, for step 3, the calculation goes – 2.77 Kwh X 720 hours of annual use = 1,994.4 annual Kwh consumption.

The average price per Kwh in Montana is roughly 11.5 cents.

In this case, you’d spend just over $229 on cooling your house annually. 8 hours a day for 90 days a year is a pretty aggressive estimate for our Montana climate, so chances are, this may even be a bit on the high side. If you upgrade to a system with a higher SEER rating, that number is even less. For a 16 SEER unit, your cost would be $186.30 to run the system for 720 hours.

How can I make sure my HVAC contractor knows what they’re doing?

In the state of Montana, you don’t have to hold a license to install arguably one of the most important systems in a home: your HVAC system. We all need heat in these cold Montana winters, but the guys installing these systems need no experience before starting a company, like electricians and plumbers. When the economy and building industry are booming, you get a lot of companies moving quickly to an area to capitalize on that growth. The main problem with that is they come to town, capitalize on the boom. and are gone tomorrow. 2, 3, 5, 10 years down the road when you start having problems, they are either out of business or have moved on to the next place or back home.

Ask for references from a trusted contractor. Typically, a long-standing builder in the area will know who to use and who to steer clear of in terms of sub-contractors. Ask around.

Get multiple bids. If one is too low, that is usually an indication that there is a problem. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is.

Do your research. Don’t go into things blind. Do a little Google research about what you are trying to do and get a bit of an understanding before you interview contractors.

Ask who is doing the work. Sometimes companies send in a fast talker who can dazzle you with all the latest and greatest features and talk the talk but when it comes to the actual installation, they send in the greenhorn with no experience. Ask about the installers and their experience.

How much does a new furnace cost?

The answer is, “It depends.” There are many reasons that you may need a new furnace and the cost will vary based on the answer to that question.

1. You are building a new house and need a new furnace and duct system. In the Gallatin Valley, you can anticipate spending anywhere from $2.50-$3.00 per square foot on a basic furnace system and duct work. If you plan to add options like zoning, upgraded thermostats, or an HRV, your total cost will go up.

2. Your older furnace went out and you need a new one. You can expect to pay about $3,500-$4,000 for a new 95% efficient furnace. Most companies will provide a free estimate. It is important to get estimates from at least two companies and to research those companies before you choose to purchase. The HVAC industry has little oversight in Montana (no special licenses are required to become and HVAC contractor like plumbers and electricians) so make sure the company you choose is local (so they will warranty their work) and that they have experience in the trade and positive reviews.

3. You are doing a remodel project and want to add a forced air system. This is often one of the most varied costs when it comes to a new furnace. Some companies will want to charge “time and materials” for this type of work rather than an estimate or a bid since remodel projects often run into unforeseen costs or more hours than a typical project. You can expect to pay a bit more per square foot since it’s more labor intensive to work around an existing structure. Typical prices range from $2.70-$3.20 per square foot for the basic system.

How does an air source heat pump work?

Since installing one in our own home last year, we have saved a significant amount of money on our energy bill. We have propane to run our furnace and two winters ago, the propane bill was outrageous. At one point, we paid over $3 a gallon for propane compared to the typical summer fill rates of $0.99 or $1.49 per gallon here in the Gallatin Valley. We ended up paying for our heat pump in one year thanks to the energy savings. During the fall, it was fantastic because as we all know, there are days where you may want both heat and air conditioning in the same day. It’s pretty awesome to have one unit that take care of both needs, is highly energy efficient, and keeps our family warm and cool.

How often should I change my furnace filter?

One of the top problems we see in the industry today is lack of air flow due to a dirty filter. When running an air conditioning unit, lack of air flow can cause the unit to ice up and not function properly. It is recommended to change your filter every three months. This can reduce allergens as well as increase the efficiency and performance of your system. Most HVAC contractors will write the size of the filter on the exterior of the furnace. If not, the size is printed on the filter. You can get filters from any local hardware store or your local HVAC contractor. Many contractors offer annual maintenance programs and will leave extra filters so you can change them.

Why should I service my furnace?

With winter in Montana in full swing, it is not the time to be dealing with a broken furnace. By having your furnace serviced by a professional at least once a year, you can increase the life span of your furnace and reduce the risk of costly repairs. A typical tune up costs between $110-$250 while an emergency service call can add up with labor costs being $70+ per hour. We had a call a couple weeks ago that could have 100% been prevented by annual maintenance, that ended up costing the homeowner nearly $1,000 in labor and parts and will likely reduce the life span of the furnace. By utilizing an annual service agreement, you not only will save money long term, you will also have peace of mind that your furnace should keep you and your family toasty through the winter for years to come.

Call us for a free estimate at (406) 333-0177. We’re happy to welcome you into the family, whether you’re in Bozeman, Belgrade, or the surrounding areas in Gallatin Valley.

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