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).
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.