Coleman Echelon Furnace: Problems Update and Review

Coleman Echelon
Coleman Echelon. Coleman

The Coleman Echelon 97.5% High-Efficiency Furnace is unlike anything you may have owned before. It's an unusual experience, and you will first want to understand the three major types of furnaces.

If you're accustomed to the huge blast of heat followed by the long period of interior cooling that you find in traditional one-stage furnaces, this is completely different. Also, it is interesting to note that this Coleman furnace is made by Johnson Controls, which also makes York and other furnace brands.

Volume of Air, Level of Heat

Is it impossible to objectively judge a furnace, considering that the previous furnace was over a half-century old? Certainly, anything will be better than the previous furnace, right?

That's what I thought at first. And when it comes to volume of air output, that is especially the case. My previous furnace barely put out a trickle of air. After the Coleman furnace was installed, the blast of air blew out clouds of dust from the ducts.

It didn't help that the HVAC company had removed the air filter. Sofas, walls, windows, and everything horizontal was blackened. I estimate that I have six to eight hours of dusting and mopping ahead of me just to return my house to normal. Though my dust problem is an issue with the HVAC company, not the Coleman furnace, it is a testament to the volume of air the Coleman put out to expel that dust.

Noisy Furnace

Noise? This Coleman furnace is loud.

Remarkably, it is as loud or even louder than my previous fifty-year-old furnace. And I'm not talking about the increased volume of air whistling through the vents. I mean the furnace unit itself is loud. Luckily, because the unit modulates, you only occasionally have to listen to the unit blowing a full capacity.

How Well Does It Modulate?

The reason I bought a modulating furnace: I hate that long, cold period that precedes the single stage furnace kicking back on.

It sounds childish--and it may very well be--but it's also tied to very green and eco-friendly results. Because I like a warmer house, I tend to set the single stage or even dual stage furnace quite high to compensate for those cold periods. Thus, I'm running a very hot furnace that turns on constantly.

But with the modulating furnace, I set it right at the desired temperature of 72 degrees and find it to be quite comfortable.

The biggest task that this modulating furnace takes on is first thing in the morning, when it is called upon to heat up a very cold house. Instead of blasting away at full force right away, this Coleman furnace gradually increases its heat over a period of about fifteen minutes. It's a nice way to wake up.

Cost of Furnace + Installation

Even if you purchase the same Coleman furnace, your cost will vary, since factors are different: regions, dealers, installation, and your ability or willingness to negotiate.

I went through Sears Home Improvement, a middleman between me and the HVAC installer. In the end, because I did have problems with the furnace installation, it was a good thing to have Sears there.

The Sears rep kept the repair job on track, but some readers have reported that they were unhappy with Sears services.

This Coleman furnace cost $5,042.03. I did not attempt to bargain down the price with the Sears Improvement salesman. This price includes taxes but does not include any federal tax credits or local energy company rebates.

My local energy company rebate for this Coleman furnace is $250. Federal tax credits on this model are $1,500.

Keeping You Updated

Because furnaces are super long-term purchases--even more so than buying a car--I want to let you know how well this furnace works over the years. Everything above was written soon after the furnace was installed. Below are the updates, winter after winter. I'll add that I'm not overly bothered by call-ins for minor repairs, because normally you would want to have a technician come once a year, in late summer or early fall, to service the beast.

1 Winter After Installation: Works Fine, No Call-Ins

Now that I have run this Coleman furnace for one full season, I have a truer feeling about its operation. While I still cannot compare year-to-year energy bills, I do have to say that this furnace pushes out some major heat. Even in my poorly insulated house, this furnace kept the home toasty warm throughout the winter. But I'll add that I don't live in severe winter conditions. Most of the time, I was irritably walking to the thermostat and turning it down because I was too hot. This is all variable (my house isn't very large) and subjective (I don't love forced-air heat), but that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

3 Winters After Installation: Gas Valve Stuck and Condensation Collection Box Cracked

I knocked the rating down two stars after undergoing two repairs that cost $385. First, the pilot would light, but the burner would not go on because the gas valve was stuck. This was the first cycle of the season, so I could halfway expect that things wouldn't be running as smoothly as possible. The technician banged the valve to get it open so that I could enjoy heat while we were waiting for a new valve to come in. Second and worst: the condensation collection box was cracked beyond help. We pulled out this clear plastic box and it was cracked all over. The technician said that Coleman found out that this type of plastic wasn't good (I could have told them that) and that they changed to a softer, less brittle black plastic. The furnace was still under warranty, so the parts were covered.

4 Winters After Installation: Blow Out Tube

It's now an annual ritual to call in the heating man. This time, the furnace would attempt to turn on--and it would sound promising for a few minutes--then would shut down before warm air could come out of the vents. My furnace guy charged me for the minimum show-up fee because the only problem was a little clear plastic tube that he said needs to occasionally be cleared out. Debris or calcification or something of that nature will clog the little tube.

He showed me how to blow it out.

5 Winters After Installation:  Running Smoothly

This is the first winter where the Coleman kept on running with no need for repairs.