Choose the Perfect Furnace for Your Home With This Expert Guide

Selecting the right furnace for your home is an important decision that requires careful research and planning. With so many brands, efficiency ratings, features, and factors to consider, it can feel overwhelming trying to determine the best option. The goal of this guide is to provide expert advice on choosing a furnace tailored to your specific climate, budget, and needs.

Rather than offering a definitive ranking of the “top 10 furnaces,” we’ll outline the key criteria you should evaluate when shopping for a new system. With the information in this guide, you’ll be able to find the perfect furnace to keep your home warm and comfortable for years to come.

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Determine the Correct Furnace Size

One of the first steps in selecting a furnace is making sure you get one that is properly sized for your home. An HVAC professional will determine the ideal furnace size based on critical calculations.

Calculate Required BTUs

The heating output of a furnace is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). Your HVAC technician will calculate the number of BTUs needed to heat your home based on square footage, insulation, climate, and other heat sources like fireplaces.

A furnace that is too small won’t be able to maintain comfortable temperatures, while an oversized unit will cycle on and off frequently, leading to inconsistent heating.

Understand Furnace Size Terminology

Furnace sizes are described in tons or BTUs. One ton of heating capacity equals 12,000 BTUs. Some common furnace sizes include:

  • 1.5-ton = 18,000 BTUs
  • 2-ton = 24,000 BTUs
  • 3-ton = 36,000 BTUs
  • 4-ton = 48,000 BTUs
  • 5-ton = 60,000 BTUs

An HVAC professional should inspect your home and existing ductwork to determine the appropriate capacity.

Have an HVAC Pro Evaluate Your Home

While online BTU calculators can provide a general estimate, it’s best to have an HVAC technician assess your home’s specific needs. Factors like your existing ductwork layout can influence the properly sized furnace.

A qualified professional will consider all the relevant factors before providing furnace size recommendations. Improper sizing can decrease efficiency and lead to issues, so getting professional input is advised.

Compare Furnace Efficiency Ratings

Higher efficiency equals lower monthly heating bills, so this should be a top priority when selecting a furnace. Compare ratings across brands and models to find one that will save you money over time.

Understand AFUE Ratings

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This percentage represents how much of the fuel consumed gets converted to usable heat. Standard furnaces are 80-82% AFUE, while high-efficiency models can be 90-98% AFUE.

Higher AFUE ratings translate to lower operating costs. However, the higher initial investment for premium models needs to be weighed against long term energy savings.

Consider ENERGY STAR Certification

If a furnace has earned ENERGY STAR certification, it meets strict energy efficiency standards set by the EPA. While not all ENERGY STAR furnaces have the highest AFUE ratings, the certification provides added assurance of getting a model that will save energy and money.

Compare Efficiency Across Brands

Leading furnace brands like Lennox, Trane, and Bryant offer models ranging from 80% AFUE to 98% AFUE. Compare ratings to find the right balance for your budget. For example, Lennox’s EL296V high-efficiency furnace is 96% AFUE and great for cold climates, while their more affordable EL195E model is 80% AFUE.

Evaluate Key Furnace Features

While efficiency is critical, also consider features that can customize comfort, improve air quality, and add convenience. Evaluate options like multi-stage heating, smart technology, and energy-saving modes.

Filtration and Air Quality

Look for features like better filtration, humidifiers, UV lights, and ventilators if allergies are a concern. Multi-stage models circulate air more consistently while high-end air filters remove more contaminants.

Smart/WiFi Capabilities

Many modern furnaces integrate with smart home systems, allowing you to adjust temperature and settings from your phone. Advanced diagnostics and alerts notify homeowners if repairs or maintenance are needed.

Noise Levels

Check the noise rating in decibels for the furnace fan. Single-stage compressors are louder than multi-stage models. Newer furnaces are quieter than those made over 15 years ago.

Zoned Heating

For custom heating throughout your home, look for zoned systems that let you set different temperatures for each area. This is ideal for two-story homes.

Understand Upfront and Lifetime Furnace Costs

While comparing prices, look beyond just the furnace’s purchase price. Installation, operating costs, maintenance, and lifespan all impact your total investment.

Purchase Price

Upfront costs range from $2,000 for budget models to $12,000 for premium units. Variables like efficiency, brand, sizing, and features influence price. Get an itemized quote accounting for taxes, permits, labor, and other installation costs.

Operating Costs

High-efficiency systems cost more upfront but pay dividends through lower monthly bills. Electric furnaces cost less to buy but more per year for electricity versus gas. Consider lifetime costs, not just purchase price.

Repairs and Maintenance

Keep your furnace running efficiently with annual tune-ups, filter changes, cleaning, and inspections. Neglecting maintenance leads to breakdowns and higher energy use.


With regular upkeep, expect 15-20 years from a quality furnace. Heavy usage or extreme climates may shorten lifespan. Plan ahead for replacement costs down the road.

Choose a Reputable HVAC Brand

Stick with well-known brands like Lennox, Trane, Bryant, Goodman, and Rheem. Review warranties and local dealer reputations before purchasing.

Research Top Brands

While brand is not everything, industry leaders are known for superior warranties, reliable parts, and experienced dealers. Compare pros and cons among brands recommended by local HVAC contractors.

Understand Warranties

Many brands offer warranties of 5-10 years on parts and 20+ years on heat exchangers. Longer warranties indicate higher confidence in longevity. Ensure you understand what’s covered if repairs are needed.

Find Local Dealers

Work with qualified local contractors for installation and service. Check credentials, training, certifications, and customer reviews before selecting who will install your furnace.

Determine the Best Furnace for You

Rather than a definitive top 10 ranking, the “best” furnace depends on your particular situation. Use this guide to evaluate the right fit.

Consider Your Climate

Furnaces installed in cold northern regions need higher BTU output than those in warmer southern climates. Ensure the furnace is appropriately sized for heating needs where you live.

Evaluate Your Budget

If budget is a major factor, limit your search to affordable models with lower AFUE ratings to avoid costly premium features. Prioritize efficiency and quality within your price range.

Read Reviews From Local Homeowners

Search HVAC brand reviews focused on your area. Feedback from local customers provides helpful insight into real-world reliability, warranties, and contractor experiences.

Make the Best Choice for Your Situation

There are great furnace options across all price ranges. With the factors outlined in this guide, you can zero in on the ideal model to meet your specific heating needs, climate, budget and priorities.

Selecting a new furnace is an important decision requiring research. This expert guide has covered the key factors to evaluate, including proper sizing, efficiency ratings, features, costs, brands, and climate suitability. Focus on finding a quality furnace tailored to your needs and budget.

Rather than a definitive ranking, use this advice to compare options and make an informed decision. Get quotes from local HVAC contractors on recommended models. With the information in this furnace buying guide, you can choose a system to provide reliable heating and energy savings for years to come.

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