I wonder how some consumer magazines and review sites do it? How can they pass judgment on ALL products that come into their realm?
Is it because of some divine ability to be a professional on ALL subjects? Or do they have time machines to see what products will still be around in the future?
The reason I ask is because of how many times I have seen them misjudge or cast a negative light on a perfectly good product.
Beware of the Ratings
I used to be a consumer magazine junkie. I figured it was a great way to avoid purchasing a lousy product. I work hard for my money and when I use it for something I want that something to work and last.
Then one day I noticed that a few of my "top rated" purchases gave me a great deal of trouble. “Magazine X said this was the best and most reliable!” I exclaimed.
I also noticed that friends who had purchased products that were not blessed by the professional reviewers were not having any more trouble than me.
While I had thought that their purchase was obviously a mistake and that they would soon regret it, they proved to work just fine.
Rather than falling apart within minutes of operation, it seemed they got just as much use from their products as I got from mine.
I would never say that review organizations are always wrong. But I would say that I have learned to take what they say with a grain of salt.
The reason I say this is because of how they have negatively influenced purchasers.
We have become a mob, seeking the “best” furnace brand. Once we have that “top furnace guide" in hand, we feel safe.
Unfortunately, this often leads us to ignore the advice of people who do know and who could help us choose the best furnace brand.
Who Would Know the Best Brand?
I love to grill. So having a good grill was important to me. I still remember the day I purchased a grill that was not rated well by a major consumer magazine. It wasn't bad, but it was not near the top of their list either.
I had gone to the store with magazine in hand so I could pick the best grill. After looking over the "recommended" picks, I wasn't impressed.
I saw numerous flaws with the designs. I noticed that the way some of the products were built that they would wear out quickly.
They looked fancy and came with a number of gadgets, but I wasn't buying a grill for decoration. I was buying it to cook food and to last a long time.
Then I noticed her. Not the shiniest grill on the block, but oh that solid construction. Look at those quality parts.
She didn't come with all the bells and whistles, but I knew that just meant she didn't need any. This grill had confidence.
But wait, it's not on the recommended list AND it's more expensive. What was I to do? The all-knowing magazine said she wasn't for me, but my eyes saw differently.
I spoke with the store representative, but he knew very little about grills. I then called each manufacturer of the grills to speak to someone who could persuade me one way or the other.
The "recommended" brands could care less. "Didn't you see that magazine X gave us a top rating?" they said. That was their defense of the problems I noticed about their product.
The manufacturer of "The One" was just the opposite. They were proud of their design. You could tell the way they talked, they had one mission. Build a product that will last and would make the buyer happy they bought it. Fifteen years later, I can say they did just that.
I learned an important lesson from this. Because of my experience, I was smarter than the consumer magazine. I'm not an expert in everything, but neither are they.
What they learned from spending a few hours testing could not replace the years I had using a number of different grills.
How Reliable Are Reliability Ratings?
Looking at furnace reliability ratings from a leading consumer magazine, a person would want the American Standard brand. It's the best right? But if you read the fine print in all of their graphs, they have a + or - of about 5%.
Which means that the American Standard brand with a 15% breakdown rate down to the Tempstar brand at 20% are really all tied.
But you might think, "Well at least I won't make the mistake of buying the Goodman brand furnace. It's at the bottom." Is it?
Would it surprise you to know that the Amana brand rated at 19% and the Goodman brand rated at 25% are the exact same furnace. Same company, same manufacturing plants and same parts. Only the name tag on the furnaces are different.
So why the difference in reliability? Because it’s not about the brand.
What Really Determines the Best Furnace Brand?
The all-important brand and reliability ratings go out the window when it comes to heating and air conditioning equipment. The reason being, almost everything depends on the installation.
The top furnace brand installed by a bad contractor will perform poorly and have reliability problems.
The opposite is true as well. What is often considered bad brand installed by a good contractor will most likely perform well and be reliable.
Heating and air conditioning systems are unlike any other appliance. Bring in any other appliance in your home, plug it in and off you go. Not so with a new furnace.
This equipment needs to be installed properly. Then it needs to be set up and tested to make sure it operates as designed. All of this needs to be done by a contractor that knows his stuff. And that’s the real trick.
It’s hard to find the right heating contractor. Many people choose the company with the best marketing or the one with the lowest price. Both choices tend to leave people disappointed.
After over 30 years in the industry I’ve met both honest and dishonest contractors. The good companies are harder to find but they are out there. And they’re worth finding.
What Is the Best Furnace Brand?
If you're still asking that question...your doing it wrong.
I have worked on and installed most brands and I can tell you one truth. They will all break and your choice of features, like two stage heating, impacts it far more than brand.
Focus on picking the contractor. The rest will take care of itself.