In the Market For a New Furnace? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Laura Hennigan
Written by Laura Hennigan
Updated October 18, 2021
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You’ll need to consider more than just the price tag to keep your home warm and comfortable

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A well-maintained furnace will last for 15 to 20 years, making it a long-term investment that affects the comfort of every space in your home. Before installing a new unit, it’s important to consider different types of systems, fuel sources, size, and efficiency. Comparing all the options and consulting a professional contractor will help ensure you find the right furnace for your needs.

8 Essential Tips for Buying a Furnace

1. Types of Furnaces

Single-Stage Heat

Single-stage or single-speed furnaces are the most common. They have a one-size flame that is either on or off with no in-between options. These furnaces have a telltale “rev up” sound that happens before warm air begins flowing from the vents. When the desired temperature has been reached, single-stage furnaces turn off until it’s time to run again. These systems typically cost between $2,000 to $3,500 for parts and labor.

Two-Stage Heat

Two-stage or two-speed furnaces are designed to be much more efficient than a single-stage model. This system contains dual flames with a smaller one continuously operating while temperatures are milder. When it gets colder outside, the second, larger flame kicks on to provide more heat. This type of furnace fan runs more continuously, which means it’s quieter than a single-speed unit. These systems cost between $2,500 and $4,000 for parts and labor

Multi-Stage Heat

Multi-stage or modulating furnaces are the most efficient option as they can continuously warm your home within two degrees of the programmed temperature. The flame in the unit increases and decreases slowly, allowing your house to remain consistently comfortable. Modulating furnaces cost between $5,000 and $7,500 for parts and labor.

2. Picking the Right System

Gas

Gas is the most economical energy source for furnaces, making it the most popular type of heating system. Gas furnaces burn cold air with natural gas to create heat, then use a fan to move the warm air through the home via air ducts.

Electric

Electric furnace systems work similarly to gas units. They produce heat by pulling air through a heat exchanger to warm it, then use a blower to push the warm air through the ducts. Electric furnaces are an option for homeowners who may not have access to a natural gas line or for those who prefer to avoid any risk of carbon monoxide fumes.

Propane

Propane systems use propane as a fuel source instead of natural gas or electricity. An outdoor storage container delivers propane to the surface unit. Next, the propane burns in a heat exchanger, which helps warm the circulating air. Propane furnaces are smaller and fit well in tighter spaces and are a popular choice for areas with frequent power outages since they don’t rely on electricity.

3. Find the Correct Size

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A correctly sized system is essential for overall home comfort. Choosing a unit that is too large or small may affect energy efficiency, temperature levels, or incur more furnace repair costs.

Before having a new furnace installed, you’ll need to consider several factors, including the square footage of your home, the insulation quality of your windows and walls, ceiling heights, and the recommended heating factor for the climate zone you live in.

A licensed professional contractor can help you determine the best furnace model for the size and shape of your home.

4. Zoning Systems

Different parts of your home may get hotter or colder faster depending on a number of construction and location factors. For example, a kitchen may be a “hot zone” because of oven use, while a bedroom that sits over the garage could be considered a “cold zone” if there is extra draftiness. If your thermostat is located near one of these areas, you could experience hot and cold spots throughout your home, or you could be using more energy than necessary to keep your home at a set temperature.

A zoning system helps solve both of these problems. These systems divide your home into groups called "zones.” Each zone is controlled by a separate thermostat. Additionally, dampers within your ducts can open or shut off access to different zones in order to even out temperatures throughout your home and make sure you are using just the right amount of energy to keep your home comfortable.

5. Comfort Features

There are a variety of comfort features available with different furnace systems, including lower noise levels and temperature controls. While these options often come at an additional cost, a furnace is an investment you will be living with for the next 15 to 20 years, so consider what will work best for your household in the long term.

As a general rule, higher quality furnaces, such as two-stage and multi-stage units, are quieter. You can also opt to add a furnace dehumidifier, which helps regulate the levels of humidity in your home. A whole-house dehumidifier costs anywhere from $1,300 to $2,800.

You may also want to research different types of thermostats, such as WiFi-enabled, to control your home’s temperature instead of a traditional wall unit.

6. Warranty

When you have a new furnace installed, the system should include at least one manufacturer warranty for the parts. These warranties need to be registered and are generally valid for five to 10 years. You may also have the option to purchase additional coverage, such as an Installation Warranty or an Extended Warranty.

7. Extra Costs

Although a new furnace price quote generally includes parts and labor, there are other costs that may come into play. Be prepared to pay additional installation fees for upgrades to other elements the heating system needs to work properly, including ductwork, vents, and the chimney.

8. Rebates

In addition to saving money on utility bills, investing in a new furnace often comes with rebates from your utility company. High-efficiency heating equipment can qualify for local incentives through the Energy Star rebate program, which is available in most locations.

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