Lennox vs Trane vs Carrier Furnaces: Which brand of gas furnace is best?

Lennox, Trane, and Carrier are probably the 3 most popular brands of new furnaces in British Columbia (with Amana probably being a close 4th). We have made this post to provide homeowners with a quick overview of the furnaces offered by these brands.

First will compare each manufacturer’s published furnace specifications.

Each of these 3 manufacturers offer a similar lineup of furnaces. New furnaces can be divided into 6 categories or “classes”, and each manufacturer makes a model that fits into each one (except Carrier makes 2 similar models in some categories).

Class 1) A high efficiency furnace with a variable speed blower motor and modulating burners (Lennox SLP98 vs Trane XC95m vs Carrier Infinity 98/ Infinity ICS)
Class 2) A high efficiency furnace with a variable speed blower motor and two-stage burners (Lennox EL296V vs Trane XV95 vs Carrier Infinity 96 New Edition/ Performance 96 Two-Stage)
Class 3) A high efficiency furnace with a multi-speed motor and two-stage burners (Lennox G61 vs Trane XL95 vs Carrier Performance 93)
Class 4) A high efficiency furnace with an energy-saving single-stage blower motor and single-stage burners (Lennox EL195E vs Trane XT95 vs Carrier Boost 90). These furnaces are for homeowners who wish to install an air conditioner or heat pump but cannot fit a variable speed furnace into their budget.
Class 5) A high efficiency furnace with a standard multi-speed motor and single-stage burners (Lennox ML195 vs Trane XR95 vs  Carrier Comfort 92)
Class 6) A budget high efficiency furnace with a standard multi-speed motor and single-stage burners (Lennox ML193 vs Trane XB90 vs Carrier Base 90)

Carrier also offers the Performance 96 Single Stage, a furnace with a variable speed blower and a single stage gas valve.

Note: If you want to learn what the terms above mean and the importance of the different features, then visit our furnace info page or watch our 5 minute video on new furnace options.

Class 1 Comparison: Comparing the top-of-the-line systems. Each of these manufacturers makes one model of a high efficiency variable speed modulating furnace (except Carrier makes 2).

Lennox SLP98 Trane XC95m Carrier Infinity 98 / ICS
Efficiency (For 90K or 100K BTU model) 97.5-98% 95-96% 97.3%  for Infinity 98 (96% for Infinity ICS)
Burner modulation From 35% to 100% From 40% to 100% From 40% to 100%
Fan motor Variable speed Variable speed Variable speed
Noise level Quietest furnace available (mfr’s claim)* Does not claim to be quietest available Quietest furnaces available (mfr’s claim)*
Heat exchanger warranty Lifetime limited Lifetime limited Lifetime limited
Warranty on other covered parts 10 years 10 years 10 years

*Both Lennox and Carrier claim their higher-end furnaces are the quietest on the market. This is probably due to their different testing procedures.

It is apparent that Lennox is equal to or better than Trane or Carrier when it comes to the published specifications. But it isn’t by a large margin: The Lennox SPL98 (when looking at the 90-100K models, as this is a common size) is up to 3% more efficient than the comparable Trane and Carrier models, and has a burner which can operate at a slightly wider range of outputs (it can operate at as low as 35% capacity, compared to 40% for the competition).

Class 2 Comparison: High efficiency furnaces with variable speed blower motors and two-stage burners (Lennox EL296V vs Trane XV95 vs Carrier Infinity 96 New Edition / Performance 96 Two-Stage)

These furnaces all offer variable speed blowers and two-stage burners. The efficiency ratings are 96% for the Lennox, 95% for the Trane (for the most common sizes: the 80K and 100K BTU models), and 96.1-96.7% for the Carrier. The Carrier Performance 96 does not offer full variable speed operation like the Infinity 96 does. These models all have lifetime limited heat exchanger warranties and a 10-year warranties on other parts (with system registration) is available in some circumstances.

Class 3 Comparison: High efficiency furnaces with multi-speed blower motors and two-stage burners (Lennox G61 vs Trane XL95 vs Carrier Performance 93)

These furnaces all offer multi-speed blowers and two-stage burners. The Lennox is rated at 94.1-95%, the Trane is rated at 95% for the upflow version and 96% for the downflow version, and the Carrier is rated at 92-93%. All 3 offer a lifetime limited warranty on the heat exchanger and a 10-year warranty on all covered components with system registration and if other criteria are met.

Class 4 Comparison: High efficiency furnaces with energy-saving single-stage blower motors and single-stage burners (Lennox EL195E vs Trane XT95 vs Carrier Boost 90)

These furnaces are designed to be low-cost options that still work well with air conditioners, heat pumps, and air purification systems. The Lennox and Trane are rated at 95% efficiency while the Carrier is rated at 93%. All 3 offer a lifetime limited warranty on the heat exchanger and a 10-year warranty on all covered components with system registration and if other criteria are met.

Class 5 Comparison: High efficiency furnaces with standard multi-speed blower motors and single-stage burners (Lennox ML195 vs Trane XR95 vs  Carrier Comfort 92)

The Lennox and Trane are rated at 95% efficiency, and the Carrier is rated at 92-95.5% (depending on the size).  The Carrier Comfort 92 only offers a single-speed blow motor, unlike the others which offer multi-speed motors. These furnaces offer a lifetime limited warranty on the heat exchanger (except the Lennox offers a 20 year heat exchanger warranty) and a 10-year warranty on all covered components with system registration and if other criteria are met.

Class 6 Comparison: Budget high efficiency furnaces with standard multi-speed blower motors and single-stage burners (Lennox ML193 vs Trane XB90 vs Carrier Base 90)

The Trane and Carrier systems are rated at 91-93%, depending on the size, whereas all sizes of the Lennox ML193 are rated at 93%. These furnaces offer a lifetime limited warranty on the heat exchanger (except the Lennox offers a 20 year heat exchanger warranty) and a 10-year warranty on all covered components with system registration and if other criteria are met.

What about reliability?

In our furnace reviews/ ratings post, we showed the results of the most recent Consumer Report’s reliability survey. Consumer’s Reports concluded that there were no “statistically meaningful differences” in reliability between the brands. Keep in mind, however, that this reliability data was published in 2008 and is based on furnaces that were made up to 12 years ago. It’s also based on a wide variety of models, so it doesn’t likely say much about any given model of furnace on the market today.

Furnace Brand RankingsThe least reliable brand required 23% more repairs than the most reliable brand. But the choice of installer could increase breakdowns by more than 50%!



In fact, installation quality is probably more important than brand selection. Consumer Reports stated that: “The most important steps in selecting a furnace, we think, are to ensure that the unit’s specifications fit your needs, that it is bought from a contractor who installs it well, and that it’s adequately maintained. Our survey results help confirm that view: When we asked about the most common reasons for service calls for furnaces about twice as many contractors we surveyed cited human error—inadequate maintenance, for example, or improper installation—as cited defective equipment.”

Note: We primarily install Amana and Lennox, and find them both to be very reliable.

Installation quality is much more important than furnace model selection

The EPA has stated that, when it comes to heating and air conditioning systems, “more than half of new systems in U.S. homes do not perform to their rated efficiency as a result of improper installation. In fact, improper installation can reduce performance by as much as 30%.”

Importance of quality installation for furnaces & air conditioners

According to the EPA, a poor installation can reduce performance by up to 30%!

As the EPA says: “ A contractor who follows good sizing and installation practices may cost more, but the results can dramatically affect how well your new equipment will deliver comfort and savings.”

Also, in their AC & heat pump reliability tests, Consumer Reports found that heating & air conditioning systems that were installed by general contractors broke down more than 50% more often than systems installed by heating & air conditioning companies.

Conclusion

Although brand differences do exist, installation quality is usually the most important factor. Some brands of furnace may be rated at 2 or 3% more efficient that others, but improper installation can reduce performance by up to 30%! According to the Consumer Reports reliability survey, the least reliable brand broke down 23% more often than the least reliable brand. But the choice of installer could result in over 50% more repairs.

To schedule a free quote on a new furnace, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Learn more about new furnaces on our furnaces page.

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High efficiency furnaces can be difficult to install in townhomes, as reported in the Toronto Star

A recent article in the Toronto Star reports how some homeowners are finding high efficiency furnaces very difficult to install in their homes. This is particularly a concern for townhouses and homes where the furnace is located near the centre of the basement.

Since 2010, all new furnaces imported into Canada must be at least 90% efficient. These furnaces require new venting and drainage systems which can be difficult to install in some homes.

The new venting must be run outdoors to a location which is not too close to any doors or windows, as this may allow the exhaust gases to re-enter the home. The article notes that this is often a problem in townhouses, especially middle units. It was also a problem for one homeowner, Bruce Meacock, who had a furnace located in the centre of his basement. In order to install a new furnace, he would have had to relocate his furnace and reconfigure the ductwork, at a cost of about $15,000.

At Good Guys Heating, we still have mid-efficiency furnaces in stock (non-high efficiency furnaces manufactured before 2010 can still be installed in Canada). These furnaces are rated at 80% efficiency. They are much easier to install because they can use your existing venting and do not require drainage. If you live in a home where a high efficiency furnace might be difficult to install, then we encourage you to call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) today to schedule a free in-home quotation on a new system (or use our online form).

Signs a high efficiency furnace may be hard to install in your home include:

  • Your furnace is not located near an exterior wall (it is located near the centre of your home)
  • Your furnace is located near an exterior wall, but there are doors or windows nearby
  • Your furnace room does not have a functional drain
  • Your furnace is located in a closet or very small room (it may be difficult to fit a high efficiency furnace in)

If any of these factors apply to your home, call us to schedule your free quote on a new system, and our comfort advisor will evaluate your home and tell you if a high efficiency furnace will be difficult to install.

In the Toronto Star article, the homeowner chose to install a tankless water heater with a hydronic air handler. Tankless water heaters are mainly designed to provide hot tap water. But they can be hooked up to a hydronic air handler, which can transfer heat from hot water into a home’s ductwork, and thus replace a furnace.

hydronic Air Handler

A Tankless Water Heater Supplying A Hydronic Air Handler

In some cases, this may be less expensive than installing a high efficiency furnace. However, it will still be much more expensive than installing a mid efficiency furnace. Plus, a hydronic air handler will be part of a more complex system and thus more expensive to maintain.

Also beware of any contractors who suggest hooking up a hydronic air handler to a regular hot water tank. This is not allowed by code, as it is highly energy inefficient and will likely be hazardous to your health as it will require an open store of lukewarm water which may become contaminated with bacteria.

To learn more about your options for installing a new furnace, visit our furnaces page.

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FortisBC Energy Star Tankless Water Heater Program: Install a tankless water heater and get a $400-$500 rebate from FortisBC

When you install a new tankless water heater before June 30th, 2013 FortisBC will give you a $400-$500 rebate. The amount of the rebate depends on the efficiency of the tankless water heater:

Water heater type Efficiency rating* Rebate
Non-condensing tankless​ 0.82 – 0.89 EF​ $400​
Condensing tankless​ 0.90 – 0.99 EF​ $500​
Condensing hybrid ​ 90 – 99% TE $500​
Condensing storage tank​ 90 – 99% TE $1,000​

*EF = energy factor; TE = thermal efficiency


A hybrid water heater is a tankless water heater that also has a small hot water tank. This eliminates the delay in hot water delivery that tankless water heaters have.


Benefits of a tankless water heater:

-Tankless water heaters use 46% less energy than hot water tanks, according to a recent CMHC study.

-Tankless water heaters never run out of hot water. Units are available that can supply 2 or more outputs (showers, washing machines, taps, etc.) at a time.

-Last about twice as long as a hot water tank (expected to last 15+ years).

-Are made of materials such as stainless steel that will not rust and potentially compromise water quality.

Bosch tankless water heater

Tankless systems are much more compact than hot water tanks

-Take up less space than a hot water tank.

-Reduced risk of water damage. They do not have a large store of hot water that will inevitably leak.

Cons of a tankless water heater:

-Higher initial costs. Cost at least $1000 more than a hot water tank to install.

-Longer start-up delays. A tankless water heater usually takes at least 10 seconds longer than a hot water tank to supply hot water to a tap. (“Hybrid water heaters”, which are tankless units with a small storage tank, eliminate this problem and also qualify for a $500 FortisBC rebate.)

-Require more maintenance than a hot water tank.

Learn more about the pros and cons of tankless systems on our tankless water heaters page.

Note that there is also a $1000 rebate for condensing storage tanks. These tanks are expensive (over $4000 to install), but they offer a much greater output of hot water than a regular hot water tank, in addition to being more energy efficient. For homes that use hot water for space heating (either radiant in-floor or baseboard), some models of condensing water heater can also be used to heat your home.

Learn more on our condensing storage tanks page.

To schedule a quote on a tankless water heater or condensing storage tank, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Electric Tankless Water Heaters: Usually not a practical option for whole-home hot water

Most homes do not have the power supply required by an electric tankless water heater

Electric hot water tanks usually take longer to re-heat hot water than gas systems. For this reason, homeowners with electric hot water tanks are often attracted to the “endless hot water” that is promised by tankless water heaters. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more energy to heat up water instantly than it does to heat it up over time, and tankless units have much larger power requirements than tanks.

Smaller gas tankless water heaters have inputs of 125,000 Btu and outputs of about 100,00 Btu. This is usually not enough to run two showers at the same time. Larger gas tankless water heaters have inputs of 175,000 Btu and outputs of about 165,000 Btu (enough to run about 2 showers).

An electric tankless water heater that produces as much hot water as a smaller gas unit (about 100,000 Btu output) will require a power supply of about 120 amps @ 220V. A typical home in the Greater Vancouver area has a 100 amp power supply. This means that, even if everything else in the home that uses electricity was shut off, there would not be enough power to run this unit. Even a smaller electric tankless unit that only draws 80 amps (and is thus potentially unable to supply a single “regular” shower) would still consume almost the entire power supply of the home.

Installing an electric tankless water heater will require an electrician to upgrade the home’s power supply in most cases, which will usually cost at least $2000.

Larger electric hot water tanks are available to provide more hot water

For homes with electric hot water tanks, a larger tank can be installed to provide more hot water. A 50 gallon tank usually doesn’t cost much more than a 40 gallon tank. If even more hot water is required, a 60 gallon tank with 50% more powerful elements can be installed. These units require a new breaker and a larger wire to be run to the hot water tank, but can still provide a lot more hot water without increasing power requirements as drastically.

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Gas Furnace Reviews / Ratings: How do different brands compare?

When looking for a new car or appliances, reliability ratings for all major makes and models can easily be obtained from major consumer publications. Unfortunately, reliability data is not available for individual furnace models. However, Consumer Reports has conducted surveys on the reliability of furnaces made by the leading brands.

Consumer Reports Reliability Survey

The results of the most recent survey were published in the January 2008 issue, and were based on 22,000 furnaces installed between 2000 and 2006. For each brand, the percentage of furnaces requiring repairs was recorded (only repairs requiring the replacement of parts and other major problems were recorded- minor problems were not counted). The repair rates for each brand ranged from 13-16% (see image).

Furnace Brand Rankings

Percentage of 1 to 6 year old furnaces that have had major problems, for each major brand.

However, there are several things to take note of regarding this survey:

-The furnaces were only 1-6 years old when the study was performed. Since gas furnaces are usually expected to last 15-20 years, these results do not reflect the long term reliability of the furnaces.

-A survey predicting the long term (15-20 year) reliability of furnaces has not been conducted and would be of little use, as each manufacturer’s systems would change considerably over such a long period of time.

-The furnaces in this survey were manufactured up to 12 years ago (as of 2012) and furnaces manufactured today will differ substantially.

-Each of these manufacturers makes a variety of furnaces, ranging from low end models to high end systems. This survey only considered a brand’s overall reliability, and thus top of the line models from one manufacturer may be being compared to another manufacturer’s lower end models.

Looking at the similar results for each brand, Consumer Reports concluded “We found no statistically meaningful differences in percent of models ever repaired for the brands listed below.” In other words, brand is not the most important consideration when selecting a furnace. As they stated in a more recent article “The degree of similarity between manufacturers’ offerings is one reason this report does not include Ratings of furnaces by brand.”

Instead, the installation quality is probably the most important factor to consider, along with selecting a model that meets your needs. Or, as Consumer Reports states: “The most important steps in selecting a furnace, we think, are to ensure that the unit’s specifications fit your needs, that it is bought from a contractor who installs it well, and that it’s adequately maintained. Our survey results help confirm that view: When we asked about the most common reasons for service calls for furnaces about twice as many contractors we surveyed cited human error—inadequate maintenance, for example, or improper installation—as cited defective equipment.”

The importance of a quality installation

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “More than half of new systems in U.S. homes do not perform to their rated efficiency as a result of improper installation. In fact, improper installation can reduce performance by as much as 30%.” (Source)

The EPA has also stated that “sizing and installation are as important as product quality. Make sure to find a good contractor” And that “installation practices can dramatically affect how well your new equipment will deliver comfort and savings. Expect to pay a little more for a good contractor who follows these practices.”

Most other experts agree that installation quality is more important than brand (as long as only the leading manufacturers are being considered).

Individual opinions on online forums & review sites

There are many websites and forums where homeowners and contractors share their experiences with different makes & models of furnaces.

Furnacecompare.com is probably the most popular site for homeowners to review their furnaces. However, the reviews are anecdotal and tend to be negative, as homeowners who have problems with their system are more likely to write online reviews.

You should probably only check out online forums and review sites if you have lots of spare time, as you will probably only become confused by the many contradictory opinions.

Visit our furnaces page to learn more about your installation options.

Call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form to schedule a free in-home quotation on a new furnace.

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Fortis BC TLC Program: Get a $25 Save-On-Foods gift card when you service your furnace, boiler, or fireplace

Until September 30th 2012, Fortis BC will give you a $25 Save-On-Foods gift card when you have maintenance performed on your furnace, boiler, or fireplace.

Homeowners with a fireplace and a furnace/boiler can receive a gift card for each system they have serviced.

To qualify, the service must be performed by a licensed gas contractor.

Plus, if you’ve never had your system maintained by Good Guys before, you can save an additional $40 off your service with this coupon.

Benefits of maintaining your furnace or boiler include: improved efficiency and lower utility costs, longer system life, fewer breakdowns, keeping warranties valid, and improved safety. To learn more about the benefits of maintaining your system, visit our tune ups page.

And you don’t need to worry about the paperwork: we’ll fill out the forms for you and send them in.

Call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online schedule service form to schedule your tune up.

You can view the pdf program entry form here. Note that Good Guys is a TECA Quality First Contractor and a Fortis BC registered contractor, which are two of the criteria that Fortis BC recommends.

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Furnace Prices: Gas Furnace Installation Cost In Vancouver

Here are some ballpark prices for installing a gas furnace in Vancouver BC:

Basic 90-93% efficient furnace, budget installation: $4000
95% efficient two-stage furnace: $4800
95% efficient variable speed furnace:  $5300
95-98% efficient variable capacity furnace: $5800

• These are only ballpark estimates for an average home. Actual costs can vary widely depending on your home’s requirements, the contractor selected, present equipment costs, market conditions, and several other factors.

• These are approximations of what you should expect to pay for an installation by a reputable, established contractor who performs quality work. You can get a furnace installed for less if low price is your primary concern.

• These estimates do not include add-ons such as advanced filtration systems, advanced programmable thermostats, humidifiers, etc.

To determine the actual cost to install a furnace in your home, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) to schedule your free in-home quotation. Or use our online form.

Visit our furnaces page to learn more about your options for installing a new furnace (such as the difference between single stage, two-stage, variable speed, and variable capacity).

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Environment Canada: Hot Summer Forecasted For Canada (Including Vancouver)

Environment Canada has just released their most recent forecast for the summer, and they’re calling for a hot summer across Canada, including the Greater Vancouver area!

Summer 2012 Weather Forecast

You can check out the forecasts at http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/saisons/index_e.html .

They admit that their long-range forecasts are only somewhat more accurate than chance, but quotes on air conditioners are free (except for apartments) so call and schedule yours today!

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CMHC Study: Tankless water heaters use 46% less gas than hot water tanks

The Energy Factor (EF) rating system provides a means of comparing the efficiency of hot water heating systems. Hot water tanks, for example, have EFs ranging from about 0.53 to 0.62 (the minimum energy factor of a 40 gallon gas tank in BC was raised to 0.62 in 2010). This means that only 53% to 62% of the heat generated is actually used, while the rest is lost to standby losses (heat lost while the tank is not in use) and out the chimney (due to the inefficiency of the burners). This compares to the EF ratings of between 0.80-0.98 for tankless water heaters, which should provide energy savings ranging from 23% to 46% compared to hot water tanks (see image).

tankless water heater efficiency

However, the EF ratings are based on equipment tests conducted in a laboratory setting, and it was unknown how accurately they predicted real world performance.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), in cooperation with Enbridge Gas, recently conducted a study on the real world performance of tankless water heaters. In 23 Toronto homes, hot water tanks were replaced with tankless units and the amount of gas used for hot water heating was measured before and after.

The result was an average energy savings of 46%, which is higher than predicted by the EF ratings. However, savings varied widely, from as low as 2% to as high as 66%. Much of this variation was due to changes in the amount of water used. For example, the household that only saw a 2% decrease in energy usage had increased their hot water consumption by 51% after installing the tankless unit, which still indicates a significant increase in efficiency.

tankless water heater energy savings

On average, homes increased their water consumption by 2% after installing the tankless systems (although this varied widely from as much as a 31% decrease to a 62% increase). Yet the results still suggest that few homeowners greatly increase their water consumption after installing a tankless system (only 2 homes showed more than a 30% increase).

Due to the current low price of natural gas, installing a tankless system would only be expected to save $69 on gas per year. However in some homes the annual savings could be $150 or more. Tankless systems usually cost $2000 to $4000, compared to the approximate $1000 cost of a hot water tank. This means that the payback on a tankless system can be as little as 7 years, but is typically 20 years or more (basically the life of the system).

Homeowners stated that they liked the unlimited supply of hot water, but many did not like the delay in the supply of hot water to the tap (which varies according to the tankless installation, but was reported to average 20 seconds in this study).

Tankless systems also offer several other advantages such as longer life and lack of corrosion (see our tankless water heaters page for details).

The full report can be downloaded at http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/odpub/pdf/67548.pdf?fr=1336131516776

UPDATE: A similar study was performed by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security and produced similar results. The authors suggested that the higher than expected energy savings provided by tankless units could be because the laboratory tests used to determine EF do not represent typical usage in a real home (the testing only involves 6 uses of hot water per day, while usage is more frequent in most homes). The authors estimate hot water tank ratings are overestimated by 23% while tankless units are only overestimated by 10%. ASHRAE is currently developing a new testing procedure for water heaters. You can download the 91 page Minnesota report here.

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Heat recovery ventilators now required in all new Vancouver homes

With the City of Vancouver’s Green Homes Program, new homes are required to be better insulated with less air leakage than ever before. This means lower heating costs. Unfortunately, it can also lead to stuffy, stale indoor air.

To prevent this, the City is now also requiring a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to be installed in every new home.

An HRV delivers fresh outdoor air into a home’s ventilation system while also exhausting stale outdoor air. But, unlike with other ventilation systems, operating an HRV results in very little energy loss. This is because an HRV will transfer the heat from the outgoing stale air into the incoming fresh air. It does so by passing the air through a countercurrent heat exchanger, where the air flowing in each direction is passed through an array of narrow passages. As the outgoing indoor air flows through the narrow passages, its heat is transferred into the incoming outdoor air. Up to 90% of the heat can be saved.

In short, an HRV is an energy efficient way to keep your home’s air fresh.

All BC homeowners who have not already received a LiveSmart BC grant can receive a $800 grant when they install an HRV in an existing home.

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