Furnace Reviews

woodburyMarch 29, 2008

Finding an honest furnace or air conditioner review is hard because everyone is biased in one way or another. I decided to write this furnace review to give my opinion with facts that I have accumulated over the years.

I have been repairing and installing furnaces and air conditioners for 21 years so I have a good amount of experience in the subject.

I have found that furnaces have evolved over the years to a point now where the manufacturers are offering a high quality product that will last many years. When high efficiency furnaces first came out, each manufacturer had its own idea on how to build a furnace and by trial and error they slowly worked out the problems to where now they are all are building a good furnace.

The furnace manufacturers actually just build the heat exchanger, cabinet, housings etc. They buy the circuit boards, motors, burners, controls, limit switches, draft inducers, pressure controls, gas valves, ignition controls, and hot surface igniters from the companies that build them like GE, Honeywell, White Rodgers, Robertshaw, etc.

You generally read comments about furnace brands that have a negative slant. This is because people who have had a bad experience tend to have the drive to tell the world about it while the people who are satisfied are content to leave it at that. The truth is every brand has to be repaired now and then and since the manufacturers who build the main working parts of the furnaces build them for every furnace manufacturer, I do not see a big difference in number of repairs from one brand to the next.

Then how should you choose which furnace brand to buy? It is important to purchase your furnace from someone you can trust to install it properly and who will back up the warranty if something should go wrong later on. I recommend that you try to buy locally so you are important to the business that you are buying from and not just another anonymous customer who does not matter. The manufacturers warranty is a big factor to look at. If the furnace does break in the future, you don't want to be stuck with a large repair bill. Today you can find lifetime warranties on heat exchangers and 10 years on all other parts. If they don't offer this warranty, keep looking because some do and it is better to let the manufacturer pay for the repair instead of you. After all if they spend all of that money on advertising trying to convince you to buy their furnace let them back it up with a good warranty!

Don't pay for your furnace over and over again with high gas bills. There are two somewhat standard efficiency ratings on furnaces that are sold today, 80% and 95%. You can think of the difference as being this: for every dollar that you pay your utility company for natural gas for your furnace, with the 80% model, 80 cents out of every dollar heats the house and 20 cents is wasted up the chimney. While the 95% efficiency model only loses 5 cents out of every dollar out the vent. So can see over time the amount of money you can save by installing a 95% furnace will easily pay for the difference in price over the 80% model and save you money every year after that.

I have installed many brands of furnaces over the years and have narrowed my offerings down to one brand. I now only install Goodman furnaces and air conditioners because I have found no better unit on the market that offers the price and warranty that I believe my customers want. Some of my customers have not heard of Goodman furnaces and air conditioners because of their lack of consumer advertising. This a plus, because who wants to pay for all of the expensive advertising that gets passed down to the consumer in the form of higher prices? Goodman had sales of 1.9 billion dollars last year and with out all of those expensive ads. You must be doing something right to become one of the largest manufacturers of furnaces in the United States with out all kinds of advertising. I also like the way Goodman backs me up if I need a warranty part without undue paperwork or making it difficult to return the part.

All furnace manufacturers have websites that you can review their products. The thing to watch out for while you look for a new furnace is not to be sucked in by a celebrity who is trying to convince you that one brand is better than the next without telling you the things that matter like warranty and price.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion in trying to pick one brand over another.

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Theres an advertisement for Goodman Manufacturing if I ever saw one.

Register on Garden Web today and write all that, nice agenda

Your views are skewed besides, variable speed aside(always the right choice), I have about 350 heating hours a year. A 95% furnace will die and need replacing before I recoup the added expense through energy savings of having one installed.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 10:48PM
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I always laugh when I hear this "the other brands are expensive because of their advertising" story. Hey, McDonalds advertises alot too, but they still sell hamburgers for 99 cents. Installers always want to sell one particular brand because that's the way the distributor networks operate.

Let's do something these installer posts never do - let's look at the numbers from the annual reports issued by the companies themselves, as required by law. The latest annual report available from the website of Goodman Global is from 2006. They listed sales of $1794.8 million and advertising costs of $8.8 million, or 0.15% of sales. This percentage was pretty consistent for 2006, 2005 and 2004.

Now let's look at another manufacturer, Trane, for example. Their website has a link to their 2007 annual report. Sales were $7450 million and advertising costs were $94 million, or 1.26%. This percentage was also the average for 2007, 2006 and 2005. So we can say two things - Trane is a bigger company than Goodman, and Trane's advertising expenses are indeed a larger percentage than Goodman's.

Now let's do a little math, something else these installer's posts never seem to do. My neighbor just had a new HVAC system (gas furnace and AC) installed for $7050. For a Trane system, the advertising portion of that cost would be 1.26% of $7050, or $88.83. For a Goodman system, the advertising portion of that same cost would be 0.15% of $7050, or $10.58. So the difference due only to the advertising budgets of the two companies comes to $78.25.

Now, you're undoubtedly thinking, the Goodman system would cost less. Well, yes, it probably would. But if the Goodman system is more than $78.25 cheaper than the Trane system (which it certainly would be), then the additional difference CANNOT be due to advertising. This is what is so laughable about these claims.

So what else could explain these price differences. The respective annual reports also tell us, for example, research and development costs. For Goodman Global, the R&D costs were 0.49%, 0.56% and 0.61% of sales in 2006, 2005 and 2004, respectively. For Trane, it was 1.56%, 1.49% and 1.45% in 2007, 2006 and 2005, respectively. Again, one notices two things - Trane spends proportionately more on R&D, and Trane increased their R&D spending over the last 3 years reported, while Goodman Global decreased theirs. This is consistent with Goodman's strategy. They say, in their own annual report, that their dealers prefer product lines that don't change because then they don't have to spend money on retraining. One can logically conclude from this actual financial data, then, that a Trane system is more likely to have the most modern technology, while a Goodman system is more likely to stick with older technology.

Even adding in the R&D difference is still not enough to explain the cost differences between Goodman and Trane (again, Trane is just an example of a higher end manufacturer - Lennox would have worked just as well). So there has to be something else, or several something elses. Goodman Global's annual report explicitly spells out their strategy of pursuing a low-cost design. Those are their words. Note that they don't say they're going to drive costs down by minimizing their advertising - they specifically say they are going after a low-cost design.

Logically, they must pay the same for raw materials (things like sheet metal) as everyone else, so it can't be that. Low labor costs, maybe? But the annual report states that their manufacturing facilities are in the US (good for them, by the way), not exactly the place to go for cheap labor. What does that leave? Could they have some super efficient manufacturing process? Do they have workers who can do the work of 10 ordinary workers? It seems unlikely. The reasonable conclusion is that they're using cheaper parts.

Now, I don't have a problem with that. It's a perfectly reasonable business strategy. It's like the difference between Walmart and Saks Fifth Avenue - two companies that are in the same business, but pursue it with different strategies. So enough of the "cost of advertising" excuse. We can see quite clearly that it doesn't stand up to the hard financial facts. Be honest. If you want to promote Goodman, that's fine. Tell us their stuff costs less - that's good enough for plenty of people. Or tell us they're made in the USA - another reason to buy. Just be honest.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 10:51PM
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Well researched and written.

Just the facts-

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 10:33AM
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Does that mean Trane cannot control their costs in other areas not mentioned like sales, logistics, marketing, engineering, management, corporate ... ??? Perhaps there is a bloated cost over run in their structure that makes them inefficient vs. Goodman?

I think all this that you point out in a couple of areas merely brings to light more areas that Trane may be more inefficient in comparison to Goodman?

They ALL buy the SAME motor's, limit switches, ignition control's, circuit board's, gas burner's, controls, draft inducer's, pressure controls, hot surface igniter's and gas valves from the SAME companies that build them like GE, Honeywell, White Rodgers, Robertshaw, etc. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE GETS DOWN TO the quality of build of the heat exchanger, cabinet, & housings. Then the testing of the assembled unit and integrity of the received unit.

After all of this it becomes a matter of other added cost in areas of overhead.

Tom's assumption above is that the Goodman would also cost $7050.00 for the same job which you and I know NOT to be the case. AND as a % of the total for advertising or R&D would be less than stated albeit the cost reduction under the TRANE price would significantly offset the paltry differences shown.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 11:56AM
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Well said! Goodman do make reliable equipment at affordable prices and with sound warranties.Just remember to get a board certified professional to install them.I speak from experience also.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 2:00AM
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