As homeowners here in Albuquerque know all too well, winter nights here in northern New Mexico can be downright frosty. This is why many homes here rely on a gas or electric furnace for their winter comfort. These furnaces are typically located in a basement, attic, garage, or utility closet. We often get questions from our customers about whether or not the furnace location matters and what places in the home a furnace can be installed. In this article, we’ll review that topic in greater depth and discuss the ideal location in your home for a gas or electric furnace.
Every home is different. If your Albuquerque or Santa Fe home needs a new furnace this winter, you should give us a call. At Wagner, we offer free in-home estimates on energy-efficient and reliable heating systems. We can match your home to the right furnace and identify the best place in your home to install it.
What is the best place for a furnace?
How do furnaces work?
First, let’s review how forced-air heating systems work. The process starts when the furnace pulls room temperature air in the home into the system. Using natural gas, the furnace transfers heat energy to the air through the heat exchanger.
In an electric furnace, the air is pushed past heating elements, but the principle is the same. The blower fan unit then pushes this heated air through the air ducts of your home. The heated air comes out of vents and registers in the rooms of your home, raising the temperature. During this process, the furnace releases ignition byproducts through a vent to the outside air.
What are the factors to consider when choosing a location for the furnace?
Based on this description, there are already some basic needs that need to be accounted for when installing a furnace:
- Air Intake: The furnace needs to be placed where there is fresh air circulation available.
- Energy Intake: The furnace needs to be located somewhere in your home where there is either a natural gas line connection or sufficient electrical connection.
- Venting: The furnace needs to be installed where there is either a pre-existing furnace vent or the capacity to install one in the ceiling.
- Adequate Space: For obvious reasons, the furnace needs to physically fit into the footprint of that space. However, it’s also important that the furnace has adequate space around it for a technician to address repair and maintenance needs.
Where are furnaces commonly installed?
This unique set of needs means that, in most homes, the architect or build already designated a space for a furnace. The most common places where furnaces are placed include:
- Basements: In homes that have them, basements are the perfect place for a furnace. The system is kept out of the way but also has adequate space and airflow. The only provision here is that the furnace should be elevated off the ground to protect it against potential basement flooding.
- Garages: Many furnaces are placed in garages. In many new builds, the garage is designed with a special “alcove” that holds the furnace without sacrificing space for parking vehicles.
- Utility Rooms: Some homes—especially those without basements or garages—have a specialized room in the center of the house that holds the furnace and water heater.
- Larger laundry rooms: For reasons we will review below, furnaces and other major appliances cannot coexist in too limited of a space. However, in homes with a larger laundry room, the furnace may be placed there.
- Attics: In homes with limited space, the furnace can be installed in the attic.
However, not every home has a pre-existing designated space for a system. Older or historic homes, for instance, often featured much smaller heating systems than the modern ones we install today. As a result, their designated space for a furnace is often no longer a good fit, which means that an HVAC professional will need to vet out a different space in the home.
Other furnace location considerations
Furnaces generate heat—and lots of it. So do water heaters, washers, and dryers. Too much heat in one confined space can lead to problems. As tempting as it might be to put all these appliances into one laundry closet (provided there’s enough physical room), you could run into overheating problems down the road.
As a general rule of thumb, every cubit foot of natural gas burned by a gas furnace requires 15 cubic feet of air for intake and 15 cubic feet of air for the dilution of gas byproducts. Most gas furnaces are capable of generating at least 140,000 BTU per-hour. Since one cubic foot of gas is equal to 1,000 BTUs, this means that it uses 140 cubic feet of gas per-hour at its highest speed or 2.3 feet of gas per minute. This means this system needs about 70 cubic feet of air every minute.
If the furnace has to compete against a clothes dryer that also needs fresh air, there may not be enough air intake in a small closet for both systems to use. For the gas furnace, this can result in two outcomes:
- First, the furnace will not be able to complete the combustion process as intended, which can lead to the buildup of dangerous carbon monoxide gas.
- Second, the inadequate air supply could lead to backdraft gases being sent into the home.
To prevent either of these things from happening, a furnace installation professional needs to:
- Take measurements of the home to find the right-sized gas or electric furnace.
- Using that furnace’s air supply needs, ensure that the planned space for the furnace has an adequate air supply.
- Calculate that needed air supply against the air supply needs of other appliances and vents.
Have your furnace installed by professionals
There is a direct correlation between the quality of furnace installation and the efficiency and safety of the system. An experienced, factory-trained contractor is the best person to install a new gas or electric furnace the right way, and will also be able to advise you on what spaces of your home have adequate ventilation, physical footprint, and gas / electrical connections for the furnace unit.
In Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Wagner is your locally trusted team for furnace installation. Our experienced technicians are gas and electric furnace installation professionals. We’re proud to bring the very best service and products to your home.
To get a free in-home estimate on a new gas or electric furnace, contact our team today.