First, consider home's energy efficiency
Heat pumps and air conditioning
To add to the mix, you'll want to consider whether you want air conditioning. If so, be sure that the contractors are aware of that when they put their estimates together. Even if you don't want to add it now, if you're considering it in the future, you need to make sure the new heating system is compatible with it.
Another option worth considering is a heat pump. Heat pumps work like a refrigerator in reverse, drawing heat from the outside air and transferring it to your home. A reversing valve allows the process to work in the opposite direction as well, drawing heat from the house and exhausting it to the outside, so a heat pump gives you both heat and air conditioning.
Heat pumps generally work best in relatively moderate climates and can be very energy efficient to operate in those conditions. However, when the outside air temperatures drop too low, there's not a lot of ambient heat to draw from, and their efficiency drops quite a bit. Heat pumps can have a significantly higher initial cost, so you need to compare paybacks carefully.
Pulling it all together
For a project this complex and potentially costly, I'd strongly recommend getting at least two estimates. Ideally, the contractors should be bidding equipment from two different, recognized manufacturers, which will give you an additional opportunity to compare costs, efficiencies and paybacks.
Be sure you verify that all licenses, bonds, insurance, and other requirements are in place and in compliance with whatever your state requires. Finally, a good heating contractor should be able to offer energy advice for your home, and should be able to give you specific payback information for the cost of any system they're bidding.
Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at email@example.com. All product reviews are based on the author's actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.
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Daily market update: Oct. 9, 2015