Cleveland-area HVAC expert discusses furnaces
Who we talked to
Stewart Unsdorfer's passion for furnace work began 20 years ago. "I wanted to do work that I could do with my hands but also that required thinking," Unsdorfer says.
"Actually, I went door-to-door and passed out cards, and our business generates almost $2 million a year now. I always felt the most important thing was providing the very best quality and workmanship."
What are some telltale signs that a furnace may need to be replaced?
"I'd say inefficient operation, high utility bills, frequent breakdown, a cracked heat exchanger and rusting out. With newer furnaces, there are a lot more componets in them to fail. With older furnaces, the problems are usually because of the lack of maintenance. It's also very common for us to see oversized furnaces. When it's oversized, it does a lot more starting and stopping, and that wears out the furnace. It has to go through that ignition sequence every time. It's only going to heat up and cool down so many times before [the heat exchanger] cracks."
What are some factors to consider when purchasing a new furnace?
"The biggest factor is the contractor. Make sure they know what they're doing, have a good reputation and have been in the business for a while. Then of course there's economy brands and premium brands. You really get what you pay for. New furnaces aren't very forgiving. You've got to move the correct amount of airflow or else they'll overheat."
What is the most common type of furnace your company installs?
"We're a Trane 'Comfort Specialist' contractor, so the most common furnace we install is Trane."
What can a homeowner do to help ensure a new furnace runs properly throughout its expected lifespan?
"The representative from the company installing the furnace should be properly trained to size the equipment to make sure it's the correct size for the space it's heating or cooling. The equipment also needs to be adjusted and calibrated to operate within the manufacturer's specifications. A study was done by Advanced Energy Corp. [located in Raleigh, N.C.] that found that close to 90 percent of all new installations of air conditioning systems were not properly 'charged,' among other issues including duct leakage and improper air flow. [The company investigates and implements new technologies for energy efficiency.] Make sure the air filter or air cleaner is maintained regularly, keep the area around the furnace clean and dry and have the furnace serviced regularly. If everything's been done correctly, a Trane heating or air conditioning system should provide 20 to 30 years of service with very few, if any, repairs needed."