A furnace is an integral part of your HVAC system, which provides warmth during the winter season and keeps your indoor space cozy and toasty. Changing your thermostat setting to “Heat” activates the furnace. From then on, until you switch the setting to “Cool,” your furnace is in the midst of some heavy-duty action. Knowing fully well that the winter season will be the true test of mettle for the furnace, it is necessary to choose its type wisely.
Types Of Furnaces
1. Gas Furnace – Natural gas is the most common fuel used by Americans to heat their homes. Needless to say, the gas furnace is the medium they use for it. The gas furnace is fed by natural gas piped through pipelines. Once the furnace is switched on, the gas inside it ignites, creating hot combustion, which raises the temperature of the surrounding air. The hot air is then circulated by the fans and pushed indoors via the ductwork.
Natural gas is economical, and the furnaces that use it provide adequate and even heating. Where the older gas furnaces were only about 65% efficient, the newer ones have efficiency as high as 98%. Therefore, if anyone says a gas furnace is not efficient, they probably have an older and outdated model.
2. Oil Furnace – Not everybody has access to natural gas, but that does not mean you have to do without heating. It just means you need to look for an alternative. A good and viable alternative to a gas furnace is the oil furnace. In these furnaces, oil is converted to heat. Typically oil furnaces are used in the Northeastern United States, where winters bring in both rain and snow.
Despite being a good alternative, an oil furnace is only about 80% to 90% efficient. It means a gas furnace is more efficient than an oil furnace. On the bright side, it is almost 25% cheaper than a gas furnace. So things do balance themselves out.
3. Electric Furnace – In the absence of natural gas, the other option at your disposal is to go for an electric furnace. In these, the furnace is powered by electricity instead of gas or oil. Electric heating elements provide heating to increase the temperature of the air.
Electric furnaces are considered a good option because they are the cheapest when it comes to upfront cost. So you will be paying less to buy an electric furnace compared to the price of a gas or oil furnace. The other good thing about electric furnaces is that they last almost 10 years longer than any other kind of furnace. Also, these are small in size, making them easy to fit even in small spaces. Efficiency-wise, unfortunately, they are less efficient than a gas furnace. Therefore, your savings in its purchase get derailed by the monthly energy bills because the electricity is costly.
4. Propane Furnace – Propane is obtained as a byproduct of producing oil and gas. One of its favorable points is that one can store it in tanks. When oil and gas are both unavailable, it makes for a suitable replacement option. Its efficiency lies between 90% to 98% and hence, is not a disappointment in that direction.
As compared to natural gas, Propane is more expensive. Yet it is considered a more desirable option because Propane burns slower than natural gas. This means lower utility bills. Almost 10% of US households depend on a propane furnace for their heating requirements.
Is Heat Pump A Type Of Furnace?
Often people ask us whether the heat pump is also a type of furnace? They get confused because a heat pump is used for heating in addition to cooling. To answer your question, “No, the heat pump is not a furnace.” The thing is, a heat pump is only good for moderate heating. It won’t serve you well in winters if you live in a geographical location where the cold weather is severe.
If you already have a heat pump and live where winters are chilly and snow just a matter of time, it would be best to pair it with a furnace. This way, you will be able to live comfortably and make the best of both worlds. Some people also refer to the heat pump and furnace conjunction as “Hybrid Heating.” In areas where the winters are mild, the heat pump alone is enough.
Considerations While Choosing A Furnace
1. The Type – Now that you are aware of the types of furnaces, you need to choose the one that satisfies your requirements and fits your budget. While budgeting, it is essential that you consider the installation cost as well. Sometimes the installation cost may come across as an unpleasant surprise upending even the best-laid plans. If necessary, take your HVAC technician into the trust and ask for recommendations.
2. Financing Options – Many HVAC contractors provide great financing options. It would be nice to get a plan that does not tear into your pockets. It would not harm to look for professional HVAC contractors offering competitive pricing options.
3. The Size – Yes, the AC is not the only thing that needs to be sized according to the square footage of the home. Even the furnace needs to be sized. Else, you will face the same problems as those that happen with an oversized and under-sized AC. Net-net, an improperly sized furnace will become an expensive mistake that can only be corrected by purchasing the correct size one. Surely, two such significant expenses, back to back, are not something anyone is prepared to bear even under the best of circumstances.
Food For Thought
When buying a new furnace, list what you are looking for and match your requirements to the available furnace options. Never make a beeline for the cheapest one because less price will come at the cost of either quality or serviceability. Also, check reviews online and in-person before making any final decision. In the end, whatever you buy will hold the fort for years to come, so you would not want to make any mistakes.