When your furnace is on the fritz, your first instinct may be to go out and buy a furnace from retail stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Sears. There are so many options out there that you may wonder: 

Should I buy a furnace from Sears?

Should I purchase my furnace through Home Depot? 

What about buying a furnace from Lowe’s?

Walmart has a good deal on a furnace. Should I buy my furnace from Walmart?

We’ve known many homeowners who’ve explored this option with the logic, “Why would big-box chains sell furnaces if you aren’t able to install them easily? It seems so much less expensive to get a furnace from retail.”

Well, unfortunately, going the retail route is typically much more expensive in the long run. Being experts in the business, we’ve seen many homeowners fall prey to the DIY retail option. What may seem like a sound choice initially, almost always ends up being a major headache down the road. Here’s why choosing a furnace from retail isn’t your best option.  

Why Choosing a Furnace from Retail isn’t Wise

Big box stores and retail outlets are well known. We all have a local Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sears, or even Walmart where we can run and buy supplies for almost any home improvement project. These businesses are great for many jobs, but they aren’t so ideal when it comes to HVAC services. 

Retail outlets want to cut the contractor out of home improvement. For most home improvement jobs, this proposition is fine—even positive. Retail outlets insert themselves in the profit chain as a middleman, which works out for homeowners who enjoy doing handiwork.

When it comes to HVAC, though, companies like Sears don’t offer 24-hour service. They don’t provide local support and service. Homeowners are often left to fend for themselves after installation, and when something goes wrong, there’s no one to call. 

Retailers buy their equipment in bulk. They get a deal because they purchase it without the warranty. Manufacturers are able to pass on the lowest-quality product and cut corners without repercussions. Often, the retailers get spiffs, kickbacks, and special deals from manufacturers for continuing to stock these inferior products. 

Compounding the problem is that manufacturers charge retailers less money for their products. Contractors and even professional HVAC distributors often pay a higher price. They’re savvy and skilled enough to demand higher quality products WITH a manufacturer’s warranty.

Retailers put their own warranty on the product (often with a lot of easy-to-overlook fine print). The companies get even more money from the consumer, who purchases the warranty and then never redeems it because they’ve inadvertently done something to render it void.

“So, Why Do Retail Companies Offer Furnace Installation?”

When you decide to purchase a furnace from a big box retailer, you might feel sure that when you pay them to do the installation, they will do it professionally.  

Once again, typically, this isn’t the case. Big box retailers often hire subcontractors—usually a one-person shop—to come to your house and install the furnace. These subcontracts are often “Jack or Jill of all trades,” meaning they aren’t HVAC professionals. You aren’t getting a quality installation.

Poor installation is one of the biggest causes of furnace failure we see. A perfectly high-quality furnace may fail because it wasn’t installed with the right pitch or because the subcontractor made a mistake. Furnaces are increasingly high-tech, and a proper installation requires extensive knowledge and training. 

So you get a shoddy installation (which you’ve paid extra for), no manufacturer’s warranty, and you’ve paid extra for the retailer’s virtually useless warranty. 

The Final Retail Rip Off

To add insult to injury, there’s a final way that retailers take your money when they sell you a furnace—they offer inflated financing programs!

We all know retail financing features notoriously high-interest rates. Over time, this interest adds up fast. In the long run, you may pay almost double the price for the great furnace “deal” you thought you were getting.  

It’s difficult for homeowners to understand what they’re really getting when purchasing a furnace from retail. Retailers may lead you to believe that buying heating and cooling equipment is the equivalent of running to your local appliance store and purchasing a new washer or dryer. You could buy most appliances from any one of several stores, take them home, plug them in, and you would have a product that functions as expected.

Heating and cooling, on the other hand, are more complex. You could purchase a Carrier furnace system from four different Carrier sellers who install it. The same unit could operate in four different ways. You must work with an installer you trust, who understands the nuances of installation. While a big box store is a matter of convenience, convenience—in this case—isn’t worth the risk and unreliability.

At 1st Choice, we work as closely with the factory as possible. We’ve built relationships that enable us to purchase the equipment at low prices. This process eliminates a lot of the middleman cost, offering savings we pass on to our customers. 

When a homeowner purchases heating and cooling equipment, they’re buying more than just equipment—they’re buying the service and installation. Screening your contractor is so important. In many cases choosing a professional furnace contractor is even more important than the brand or type of unit you purchase. 

When you choose to invest in heating and cooling equipment, buy it from a professional HVAC company, you trust. Seek a company that will stand behind the installation, honor warranties, and be available for any service you need in the future.

In the long run, buying a furnace from retail isn’t a sound investment. Choose instead to call a professional company that has a solid reputation for delivering what they promise!