What is the best furnace for your home?

As a homeowner, you’ll hopefully only have to replace their furnace every so often. This means that most people don’t know what they need to look for in a furnace. What separates a gas furnace with 91% AFUE and 20,000 BTU output from an electric furnace with smart home features?

In this article, we’ll talk through all the factors you need to consider when buying a new furnace for your home, and how you can get the best furnace for your budget.

Prioritize energy-efficiency

Just like with most other appliances, you’ll end up paying a little more upfront for a more energy-efficient system. However, when it comes to your furnace, that tradeoff is almost always worth it. In most homes, running the air conditioner and furnace makes up the majority of the energy bills. Every percentage point of efficiency can end up equating to hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the system.

Most furnaces claim to be energy-efficient—they wouldn’t be doing a very good job of marketing themselves if they said anything but! However, there’s actually a way to know and effectively compare one furnace to another. It’s called Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, or AFUE. AFUE measures how good a furnace is at converting its energy source (gas, electricity) into heat.

If a furnace has a 90% AFUE score, that means it converts 90% of the natural gas used into heat energy. That’s actually pretty good—old-school furnaces used to be around 70-80% AFUE. Some ultra-efficient furnaces today can get up to 97 or 98% AFUE.

As you’re comparing AFUE, you might notice that electric furnaces generally have higher AFUE ratings than gas ones. That’s because very little energy is wasted when electricity is converted into heat. Be careful that you don’t mistake efficiency with cost savings, though: even those electric furnaces are more efficient on paper, the cost of electricity versus natural gas can balance things out.

As you’ll discover by reading the rest of this article, buying a furnace means sorting through quite a few variables. If you need help comparing furnaces—or just need a recommendation on what you should buy—talk to our team. It’s what we’re here for!

Related: What is the most affordable furnace?

Know your fuel types

In most homes, furnaces run on one of two energy sources: natural gas or electricity. We call both systems “furnaces,” but they’re actually quite different in the way they work. Gas furnaces combust natural gas to create heat energy, which is then sent into your home, warming the overall temperature. When your thermostat senses the temperature dropping, the furnace kicks on, burning enough gas and creating enough heat to compensate.

With electric furnaces, there’s no combustion process. An electric furnace actually has more in common with your toaster or hair dryer. It runs electricity through specialized wiring, deliberately releasing heat energy as a result. This warms the surrounding air, heating up your home.

Here’s a question our technicians get a lot: which is better? Honestly, it often comes down to your individual home. If you already have a gas connection, installing a gas furnace might make a lot of sense. On the other hand, if you only have electrical outlets, you might want to take the path of least-resistance and go with an electric furnace.

From an efficiency and cost perspective, gas furnaces are generally less efficient, but cheaper to run because natural gas is often less expensive than electricity. However, there’s a lot of variation within these two categories. It’s why you should compare the AFUE of furnaces before you make a final decision.

Find your fit

When it comes to furnaces, one size doesn’t fit all. In addition to all the other options you have to choose from, you’ll need to buy the right size of furnace for your home. If you don’t, you’ll end up having to deal with years of inefficiency and poor heating.

Furnace size is measured in something called British Thermal Units, or BTUs. A furnace’s BTU output basically measures how much heat the system can generate over a set amount of time. The higher the BTU output—which is measured in the tens of thousands!—the more powerful the system. Bigger spaces and homes need higher-BTU systems to keep up with heating demand.

It’s at this point that many homeowners make the mistake of assuming that more power is a good thing. After all, why wouldn’t you want the most powerful furnace there is? There’s actually quite a few reasons. A furnace that’s too big for your home—has too high of a BTU output for your square footage, in other words—will struggle to run evenly. It’s more likely to short-cycle and experience efficiency and performance problems.

As you might have put together by now, a furnace with the opposite problem isn’t a great thing, either. Ideally, you need a furnace that’s the perfect size for your home. This is just one of the reasons why we offer free in-home estimates here at Wagner. As part of our visit to your home, we’ll need to take measurements and assess your property so that we can pick out the right heater for your space.

Go with quality you can trust

In talking about the differences between furnaces, we haven’t even mentioned the furnace’s make or model yet. But, it matters. Furnace efficiency, effectiveness and longevity often come down to the manufacturer’s research, design and build process.

It’s why we’re proud to be partnered with a trusted brand like Carrier. As one of the world’s largest and best-known HVAC manufacturers, Carrier has really figured out how to make efficient and effective furnaces. Today, they’re leading the charge into an energy-efficient future by pioneering new ways for electric and gas furnaces to create more heat with less energy.

As Albuquerque’s Temperature Tough Gold Dealer, our technicians are specially trained to install Carrier systems. If you want the best—and you should—you need a new Carrier furnace, installed by your friends at Wagner.

Watch: Carrier Ideal Humidity™ Technology

Check out this video for an overview of Carrier Ideal Humidity™ Technology, and how Carrier is once again pushing the boundaries of HVAC comfort.

Get a free in-home estimate

Ready to find the best furnace for your home? Contact Wagner to set up a free in-home estimate. We’ll send one of our experienced technicians out to your home to talk through your options with you and find the best new furnace for your property.