HVAC insights from Charlotte expert

Joe "Neal" Dulin, Sr. started a small heating and air conditioning service in Mint Hill in 1962. Nearly 50 years later, Neal's son, Joey Dulin, is running the family business, and he knows there's always more to learn.

"All of our employees participate in training classes to improve their performance and knowledge," he says. "We also have weekly training meetings with each department to improve their quality, efficiency and technical know-how."

Are there some telltale signs that a furnace may need to be replaced?

"The age [of the furnace], condition of the heat exchanger, and the efficiency of the furnace are all good reasons to replace a furnace. The most common problem a homeowner will encounter is that the standing pilot light may need to be relit after sitting idle."

What are some factors to consider when purchasing a new furnace? "The most important factors are the efficiency rating, size, number of stages and warranties on the parts. The efficiency for all furnaces is measured in an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating ranging from 78 to 95 percent. Most furnaces come in sizes from 40,000 to 120,000 BTUs.

Bigger isn't better. The size of the furnace should be based on the home's heat gain and loss calculation. Two- or three-stage furnaces are best for this area because of the mild winter temperatures. Twenty-year heat exchanger warranties are common, but most 90 percent and up AFUE gas furnaces come with lifetime warranties."

What's the most common type of furnace your company installs?

"Hybrid heating systems are the most efficient way to heat your home and are the most common system we install. They have a heat pump unit outside instead of an air conditioner, as well as a gas furnace.

The system is controlled by a combination of indoor and outdoor thermostats. It'll heat the home with the heat pump until it's 35 or 40 degrees outside, then it automatically switches over to gas heat.

Hybrid systems are the best of both worlds and range from $7,000 to $16,000, depending on the size and efficiency of the system. The purchase of a hybrid heating system includes the cost of a new cooling system as well."

What can a homeowner do to help ensure a new furnace runs properly throughout its expected lifespan?

"The best thing is to have it serviced by a professional once a year. Small problems can become bigger as your system continues to run.

A well-maintained system will help minimize costly breakdowns, extend your equipment life, and keep the unit operating at maximum efficiency."


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