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New Furnace Buying Guide

How to Choose a New Furnace and Get the Best Price

A furnace is a major expense, but it’s an unavoidable one. Eventually, your furnace will break down and have to be replaced.

Choosing a new furnace can be difficult, particularly if you haven’t gone through the process before. There are several types of furnaces, and each has its pros and cons. And because a furnace is a major investment, you want to make the best and most informed decision possible. This guide will educate you on the different types of furnaces and what you can expect to pay for each.

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Furnace Prices

The average price of a furnace is $3,000, according to Consumer Reports. However, the price fluctuates significantly based on the type of furnace you buy.

  • A single-stage, mid-efficiency gas furnace costs about $2,000 to $3,500. Single-stage furnaces have a simple on/off switch that controls the heat - they’re either running full blast or not at all.
  • Two-stage, mid-efficiency gas furnaces cost about $2,500 to $4,000. Instead of just a basic on/off switch, two-stage furnaces have two settings: high-fire and low-fire. The high-fire setting kicks in when more heat is needed and low-fire kicks on when less is needed.
  • For high-efficiency models, add about $1,000 to the prices above.
  • Oil furnaces usually cost about $2,500 to $5,000.
  • All-electric furnaces are the least expensive, generally ranging from about $1,000 to $1,500. The smallest models start at just $500. But the long-term operating costs are very high.
  • Heat pumps, which are best for mild climates, cost about $6,000 to $7,000, but your monthly energy bills will be about 50 percent less than with a furnace.

Choosing a Furnace

There are three important considerations when shopping for a furnace: size, fuel type and energy efficiency.

Size is extremely important. A furnace that is too small won’t provide enough heat to keep your home comfortable, and one that is too large wastes energy. To figure out what size to buy, calculate the Btus (British thermal units) required to heat your home using one of the many online calculators. Or, simply consult a professional.

Energy efficiency is important because an inefficient furnace will be expensive to operate. The efficiency of furnaces is measured by a percentage called annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE):

  • High-efficiency oil and gas furnaces have AFUE ratings of 90 to 98.5 percent. If a furnace has a 90 percent rating, 90 percent of the fuel is converted to heat while the other 10 percent is lost.
  • Mid-efficiency gas furnaces have ratings of at least 80 percent, while mid-efficiency oil furnaces have ratings of at least 83 percent. U.S government regulations require all residential furnaces to have efficiency ratings of at least 80 percent, except for mobile home furnaces.
  • All-electric furnaces have extremely high efficiency ratings of 95 to 100 percent, but they are generally more expensive to operate due to the high cost of electricity compared to other types of fuel.

Fuel type is the easiest choice because it’s usually dictated by what’s available locally and what type of furnace you had previously. Switching from one type of furnace to another is usually very expensive, if it’s even an option. If there are no gas lines where you live, for example, you can rule out a gas furnace.

Maintaining Your Furnace

The average furnace lasts about 15 to 20 years, but regular maintenance is important to prolong the lifespan and make sure the furnace is running safely and efficiently. Regular maintenance also prevents more costly repairs down the road.

Always get an annual inspection and tuneup. A heating technician will check all system parts and components, clean the furnace and check for carbon monoxide leaks. With a natural gas unit, the technician will make sure all safety controls are working properly. Also, a simple tuneup can improve furnace efficiency by 3 to 10 percent. For less than $200, the expense is well worth it.

In between inspections, check the furnace about every 30 days for buildup of dirt and debris. Vacuum any dirt in or around the furnace. Check the filter and replace it as necessary. Dust vent covers and vacuum air ducts, too, to ensure that the heat produced by the furnace is distributed evenly throughout the home.

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