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25 Different Types of Furnaces for Home Heating

Photo collage of air furnace; ducts; high-efficiency; filter

Quicklist: Types of Furnaces

  1. Natural Draft
  2. Forced Air
  3. Forced Draft
  4. Condensing
  5. Single-Stage
  6. Two-Stage
  7. Modulating
  8. Electric
  9. Natural Gas
  10. Oil
  11. Propane
  12. Wood
  13. Coal
  14. Low BTU
  15. Medium BTU
  16. High BTU
  17. Energy Star Rated
  18. Smart Technology
  19. Sealed Combustion
  20. Upflow
  21. Downflow
  22. Horizontal
  23. Upflow/Horizontal
  24. Downflow/Horizontal
  25. Multi-position

Furnaces have a long history of heating homes, which dates back to at least the ancient Romans. They used a type of warm-air heating system known as “hypocaust” — air was heated with burning fire which was then pushed up through spaces in flooring to warm rooms.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, furnaces went out of fashion for about 1,000 years, replaced for the most part by fireplaces. During the 13th century Cisterian monks revived the concept of furnaces to warm their monasteries.

Today, the majority of homes are still heated with natural gas but as we move away from a reliance on fossil fuels, HVAC technology is focusing on electricity as a more sustainable energy source.

Blower Options

Natural Draft Furnace

Natural draft furnace

Source: Home Depot

This a very old type of furnace that typically had very few controls. Any heat created by this furnace would vent through chimneys made of masonry or brick, with the circulation of air dependent on pipes that were pitched upward.

The pipes would help to channel the warm air through the floor, and into the home, and this worked because warm air rises. This  simple design was dependent on the type of fuel that you added and how well it burned to create any heat.

Without a blower, it was impossible to force the air into the home. Any fuel that left behind solids had to be cleaned out before the furnace could be used again.

Later, homeowners would adapt this furnace by using electric blowers to help to push the hot air out of the furnace and up and into the home.

Wood and coal furnaces were controlled by how much fuel was in the furnace as well as how open or closed a damper was on the furnace, while oil and gas systems relied on a thermostat to control the amount of heat produced.

Forced Air Furnace

Forced air furnace

Source: Home Depot

This type of furnace became popular in the 1950s and ’60s and while it was a little more efficient than the natural draft furnace, the annual fuel utilization efficiency of these furnaces was nowhere near what it is today.

They were incredibly bulky and were traditionally made with steel exteriors to help hold in the heat. They could often be installed on the same pipe system as the natural draft furnace but had blowers that moved the heat through the home.

The blowers were connected to belts and could operate at various speeds so that the homeowner had as much control over the heat in the home as possible. Over time, the furnace was adapted to work with air conditioning systems but at first, it relied on brick or masonry chimneys.

Forced Draft Furnace

Forced draft furnace

Source: Home Depot

An even more efficient type of furnace, the forced draft furnace had a multi-speed blower and a steel heat exchanger. They were a lot smaller than older furnaces, which made it much easier for the average homeowner to fit one of them into the house.

They had combustion air blowers to pull the air through the furnace’s heat exchanger, increasing fuel efficiency while at the same time decreasing the necessary size of the heat exchangers. This hot air was then pumped up into the home to heat it.

The multi-speed blower made it easy for homeowners to adjust the amount of heat being pumped into the home and it could even connect to air-conditioning systems for the best possible climate control yet.

Condensing Furnace

Condensing furnace

Source: Home Depot

These are very high-efficiency furnaces that have a combustion area, draft-inducer, and even a secondary heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is able to remove most of the heat that is released in the exhaust gas and condenses the water vapor and other chemicals while in operation.

This means that the pipes have to be strong enough to stand up to the mild acid created by these chemicals and are usually made of PVC instead of traditional metal.

The draft inducer on this furnace makes it easy for the piping to be either horizontal or vertical, allowing for a number of different arrangements of this furnace.

To have the most efficient arrangement possible, you will want to bring fresh air into the furnace from outside of the home. The combustion air produced is generally sent back outside the home with PVC piping in the same location as where fresh air is brought in.

Burner Options

Single-Stage 

Single stage furnace

Source: Home Depot

This type of furnace only allows gas to flow into the furnace at a high rate. They have a single gas valve that will open and close to allow gas flow. Since there is only a choice of “open” or “closed,” this means that a single-stage furnace is always either off or on.

These furnaces are generally very noisy, only run at one speed, and continually pump out hot air as fast as they can. They are a great choice if you live in a fairly moderate or mild area as they work at 80% annual fuel utilization efficiency, which will keep you warm but won’t offer a lot of savings each month.

In addition, this type of furnace is generally very inexpensive to have installed in the home as there is not a lot of technology that will increase the price of the furnace.

Two-Stage 

Two-stage furnace

Source: Home Depot

When you opt for a two-stage furnace, you will have a little more control over the flow of gas as you can choose between high (full power) and low (half power).

By communicating with the thermostat in the home, this type of furnace is able to adjust according to the heating load of the home. They operate at around 90% annual fuel utilization efficiency, which is an improvement over the single-stage furnace.

By starting the furnace at half power, you can allow your furnace to operate and to heat up your home on cooler days. When your home starts getting colder because of the weather, then your thermostat will trigger the furnace to open up the valve and allow full power.

This type of furnace also has an extended heating cycle when compared to the single-stage furnace. This means that the hot air will be better distributed and the home will be much more comfortable.

Modulating

Modulating furnace

Source: Home Depot

A modulating furnace runs at optimal heating all of the time by adjusting how much heat is released into the home.

While models will vary, most operate with one percent increases or decreases, allowing the furnace to not only monitor how much heat it needs to release but carefully adjust its output by taking the temperature of the home into consideration.

This means that this type of furnace is not only incredibly efficient but also provides very even temperatures throughout the home.

Modulating furnaces are best used in homes where the winters are very long and cold and there is a high demand for heat for an extended period of time. This allows homeowners to take advantage of this pricier system.

Since these furnaces are only running when it is necessary for them to be heating, they are great for helping cut down the monthly energy bills that you have.

Energy Sources

Electric

Electric furnace

Source: Home Depot

Electric furnaces are a great choice for many homeowners and one of the reasons is that they do not require a gas line. While some areas have natural gas available, there are many people who are unable to get this fuel source piped to their homes.

Even if you do have natural gas in the area, it can be very expensive to have someone come and run the pipework for you, which will add to the cost of having a natural gas furnace installed.

Most people have access to electricity, which means that they will easily be able to heat their homes with this type of furnace.

Additionally, these furnaces are generally less expensive than other types, making them a great choice for families who are on tighter budgets or who are concerned about how they will finance their new furnaces.

While there is always the chance that there will be an accident with an electric furnace, this is much less likely than with other types. There are no toxic fumes or carbon monoxide leaks for you to worry about with an electric furnace.

Additionally, newer electric furnaces are much more efficient than they used to be in the past.

Natural Gas

Natural gas furnace

Source: Houzz

Furnaces that use natural gas as the fuel to heat your home have a number of benefits. In general, this type of furnace is fairly inexpensive to maintain because they do not break down very often; even when they do, they are relatively inexpensive to repair.

This means that you don’t have to spend a lot to make any necessary repairs or to even replace the furnace when the time comes.

Since natural gas is the least expensive of all fossil fuels that you can buy, running a furnace that uses natural gas will greatly cut down your monthly bills.

Additionally, natural gas is the cleanest fuel to burn so you won’t have to worry about the pollution that you are creating each time you turn on your furnace to heat up your home.

As well as being inexpensive, natural gas is also very efficient. This type of fuel will actually produce the most heat when it is burned, which allows you to use a smaller amount when heating your home.

As reliable as natural gas furnaces are, homeowners do not have to deal with breakdowns very often and when they do, they are relatively easy and inexpensive to repair.

Oil

Oil furnace

Source: Home Depot

Oil furnaces are a great choice if you have space on your property where you can store the oil for when you need it and are willing to work with a delivery company to have them come and fill up your tank on a regular basis.

If you forget and run out of oil, then you will not be able to heat your home until the company comes back and is able to refill your tank.

Oil furnaces provide a lot of heat and actually produce more per BTUs than other types of furnaces. While maintenance is fairly easy for this type of furnace and the oil delivery company is usually happy to provide homeowners with this service, it does cost more due to the soot and dirt buildup that occurs.

If the oil filters aren’t changed on a regular basis and the chimney isn’t cleaned, then you and your family will be at risk of a fire.

These furnaces generally cost less than gas furnaces but the fuel costs more and they are less efficient so it’s important for homeowners to weigh immediate savings over savings in the long term.

Propane

Condensing furnace

Source: Home Depot

This type of fuel can be used almost anywhere and doesn’t require gas lines. By connecting a furnace to a large propane storage tank, the family is able to heat the home with little hassle.

Just as with an oil furnace, however, if the propane in the tank runs out, then there is not any way to heat the home so the tank needs to be filled on a regular basis.

Propane furnaces are very adaptable and can even be adjusted to burn natural gas instead of propane if there is a propane shortage or the prices increase so much that it is not affordable as a fuel option. Propane burns hotter than other fuels and can heat up a home very quickly.

These furnaces generally last for around 20 years. Unfortunately, as easily obtained as propane is, prices are increasing and it is more expensive than other fuel options.

Propane furnaces do not produce as many emissions as using electricity to heat the home but these furnaces do need to be checked on a yearly basis for leaks and other problems to ensure that the furnace is working correctly and meets all safety standards.

Wood

Wood furnace

Source: Hayneedle

Wood furnaces are very reliable, dependable, and efficient and fill the gap for people who can’t afford or do not want a different kind of furnace at their homes.

Being able to eliminate a lot of the monthly heating bills that you have by relying on wood as the fuel source for your furnace is a great relief for a lot of people.

A higher-end wood furnace that is maintained on a yearly basis can last indefinitely while not having your furnace cleaned out and opting for a lower-quality model will greatly shorten its lifespan to just around a decade.

One of the most important things that homeowners can do to keep their furnaces working correctly for as long as possible is to keep them free of creosote and rust.

While fuel prices seem as though they are always increasing, as long as you have a source for wood at your property, you won’t have to worry about the cost of fuel for your wood furnace going up.

Some people think of wood furnaces as being fairly dirty and while they do emit smoke that is dangerous to breathe for long periods of time, a great exhaust system that has been professionally installed will help to lower the risk of smoke inhalation.

Coal

Wood furnace

Source: Wayfair

In the same way that wood furnaces have a number of fans who appreciate how they cut the user’s dependence on outside companies and allow for great heating, coal furnaces have a number of the same benefits.

These furnaces generally have very few moving parts, which means that they are much less likely to break down or to require expensive repairs. Modern furnaces produce the high heat that coal is so famous and popular for releasing without also allowing the dangerous soot and smoke to enter a home.

Using anthracite coal that is widely available allows the homeowner to heat without fear of any smell. This type of coal is almost 100% carbon and is used to heat, unlike the other common type of coal, bituminous, which is used to create energy inside power plants.

Using the right kind of coal will ensure that you do not have billows of black smoke in your home and will decrease the chance that anyone can even tell that you are using coal as your fuel source.

Of course, there is some dust as well as ash when cleaning out the furnace but, in general, this fuel source is very easy to manage and does a great job heating up the entire home.

Heat Measurement 

Heating Climate Zones

Heat Climate Zone graphic

homestratosphere.com

 

Low BTU

Furnace with low BTU/hour

Source: Home Depot

Furnaces that have lower BTU ratings will generally be a little less expensive than ones that have higher ratings but opting for this furnace as a way to save money when heating your home can backfire on you if you are not careful.

Homeowners who have very large or drafty homes will end up paying more money to heat their homes each month with a furnace with a low BTU rating because the furnace will turn off and on regularly instead of providing consistent heating in your home.

Medium BTU

Furnace with medium BTU

Source: Home Depot

While a medium BTU rating may not seem to be the best option as people are conditioned to believe that higher is better, this may be the right choice for you depending on your home, how large it is, what kind of insulation you have, and even the average temperature of the area where you live.

This is why it’s a good idea to have an expert come and help you choose the right furnace so that you don’t overpay for one with a higher BTU rating and not get much of an additional benefit.

High BTU

Furnace with high BTU

Source: Home Depot

While homeowners tend to assume that furnaces with high BTU ratings will produce the most heat possible, it’s important that this high rating coincides with a high efficiency so that your home will heat quickly and without frustration.

By choosing a furnace that has a BTU rating that is too high, homeowners will often have to deal with furnaces that are running more than necessary. This means that it will have trouble keeping your home warm during the coldest days of winter and will greatly increase your heating bills.

Furnace Features

Energy Star Rated

Condensing furnace

Source: Home Depot

Furnaces that have been Energy Star rated have been selected by a program operated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as being very efficient and great at saving energy.

These typically will use 20 to 30% less energy than what is required by the mandates from the government. They have to have an annual fuel utilization efficiency of more than 90% to be Energy Star rated.

Smart Technology

Natural draft furnace

Source: Home Depot

If you want to make sure that your furnace is operating the best that it possibly can, then you will want to opt for a furnace that comes complete with smart technology. When shopping for a smart furnace, you will need to pay attention to the various features, as not all will have the same.

This means that your furnace may have intelligent controls that can remind you when it is time to change the filter, adjust the zones in your home automatically, and even monitor your airflow.

Additionally, this feature will keep an eye on the temperature inside and outside of your home and make it possible for you to monitor your furnace when you aren’t at home by using your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Obviously, these furnaces are going to cost more but many people find the additional features worth the increased price.

Buy it on Home Depot here

Sealed Combustion

Furnace with medium BTU

Source: Home Depot

This will not only protect your home from the risk of carbon monoxide but is much more energy efficient. Sealed combustion furnaces will maintain more of the heat that they create so that your home is efficiently heated.

Buy it on Home Depot here

Air Flow

Upflow
Furnace with medium BTU

Source: Home Depot

These furnaces draw cool air into the furnace through the base or the top. They then will push warm air through the top of the furnace and are a great choice when the ductwork will be above the furnace.

Downflow

Condensing furnace

Source: Home Depot

By taking cool air from the top and then releasing warm air from the bottom of these furnaces, they are great when the ductwork is below the furnace.

Horizontal

Single stage furnace

Source: Home Depot

These furnaces lie on their sides, bringing in cool air from one side and releasing it from the other. They don’t need a lot of vertical space and operate well in attics or basements.

Upflow/Horizontal

Single stage furnace

Source: Home Depot

These furnaces can be used as a left or right horizontal, or upflow furnace.

Downflow/Horizontal

Furnace with downflow/horizontal air flow

 

Source: Home Depot

These furnaces can be used as a horizontal (right or left), or downflow furnace.

Multi-position

Single stage furnace

Source: Home Depot

This type of furnace can be installed in horizontal left, horizontal right, upflow, or downflow positions.

Top Furnace Brands

A majority of homes in the US use a furnace for heat. Furnaces are one of the most important pieces of equipment in the house, yet they are often taken for granted.

There are many different types of furnaces and each one offers unique features. To help you find the right furnace for your home, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best furnace brands.

Carrier Furnaces

This brand make a variety of heating and cooling systems, but their furnaces are well-known for being durable and reliable.

Carrier furnaces come in both gas and oil models. They have standard features like variable speed blowers, automatic ignition, and variable speed gas valves. Their high-efficiency condensing furnaces can save up to 40% on heating costs when compared to less efficient models.

Lennox Furnaces

Lennox furnace.

The Lennox brand is a well-known name in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry. They are known for their state-of-the-art technologies and innovative products and services.

Trane Furnaces

Trane is a brand that has been in business since 1938. They are known for their high-quality furnaces and air conditioners. Trane has an excellent reputation in the HVAC industry, and they are also known for their great customer service.

The Trane brand offers many different types of furnaces, including heat pumps, gas, oil, and electric furnaces. 

Rheem Furnaces

Rheem was founded in 1925 by a couple who wanted to have better heating systems in their home. They sold stoves and gas furnaces but eventually moved into manufacturing their own products.

Today, Rheem manufactures high-efficiency furnaces and a variety of other products including water heaters, air conditioners, and geothermal units.

Ruud Furnaces

Ruud Furnace.

The company has been around since 1864 and has become one of the biggest manufacturers of heating products in the country. Ruud offers a wide variety of furnaces, including condensing models that are considered among the most efficient available.

American Standard Furnaces

American Standard Furnace.

American Standard is one of the most recognizable names in home comfort. They are the number one manufacturer of furnaces, boilers, air conditioners, and water heaters. They have been around since 1873 and they have a reputation for quality products and excellent customer service.

Bryant Furnaces

Bryant Furnace.

Bryant Furnaces is a brand that has been around for over 100 years and is known for its high-quality products.
They are a leading manufacturer of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in North America. Bryant manufactures several different types of furnaces including gas furnaces, oil furnaces, electric furnaces, and heat pumps.

Winchester Furnaces

Winchester is a leader in the HVAC industry. They have been around for over 80 years and have grown to become one of the largest manufacturers of heating and cooling products in North America. Their product line includes furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps and more. 

Goodman Furnaces

Goodman Furnace.

Goodman Furnaces has been in business since 1915, and it’s been a leader in the industry ever since. Their products are known for their high quality and durability, and they’re also one of the most affordable brands out there.

This company is one of the largest manufacturers of gas furnaces in North America, so you can count on them to have a wide variety of options for whatever your needs may be.

York Furnaces

York Furnace.

York’s original furnace, the York Super Heat, was introduced in 1919. Since then, the company has grown to offer a wide variety of furnaces that can meet the needs of any homeowner.

York offers both gas and oil furnaces that are designed to provide heat for residential and commercial buildings.

Where to Buy Furnaces

HVAC Direct

Based in Ohio, HVAC Direct’s mission is to provide HVAC products at wholesale prices. Their extensive selection of heating and cooling products saves customers money online.

Industrial, commercial, and residential HVAC units are available to buy. Among the brands carried out by HVAC Direct are Goodman, AirQuest and MrCool.

Alpine Home Air

Alpine Home Air was one of the first businesses to sell HVAC products online. They usually ship their HVAC products within 1-3 days from Kentucky.

Alpine Home Air ships HVAC products with comprehensive installation instructions. Individuals can perform the installation (if qualified) or outsourced to an installation contractor.

Among their unique services are the following:

• Free HVAC products shipping
• Pro installation support to assist in finding local installation contractors
• Free system sizing help
• 30-day return policy
• Unlimited technical support

Home Depot

Beginning in Georgia, Home Depot has become the world’s largest home improvement retailer. Their home furnaces include Trane, Rheem, Carrier, Winchester, Ameristar and MrCool.

Working with local professionals, Home Depot provides many essential customer services. Also, an added benefit is visiting with a Home Depot expert at your local store with all your HVAC questions.

Some of Home Depot’s optional services are:

• Home Depot offers finance for their new HVAC system for up to 120 months
• HVAC diagnostics and repairs
• HVAC maintenance and seasonal tune-ups
• Home Depot HVAC system installation

Supply House

Headquartered in New York, Supply House ships various HVAC products nationwide. Shipping centers fulfill their online purchases in Nevada, Texas, New Jersey and Ohio.

In 2015, Supply House introduced the innovative loyalty program, Trade Master. A loyalty program for professionals that provides extra customer phone support.

Also, it has special discounts with free shipping and returns. Among the brand’s Supply House carries are Goodman and ComfortAire.

Lowe’s

From a small town store in North Carolina, Lowe’s has become one of the largest home retailers in the nation. Lowe’s carries such diverse home furnace lines as Royalton, McCool and Winchester.

Also, they offer furnace installation and other services for their HVAC products. Their home-forced air furnaces include natural gas and electric HVAC products with varying prices based on capacity and manufacturer brand.

Zoro

Beginning in 2011 with 180,000 products, the Zoro eCommerce store now has over 1 million online. Their online inventory of heating products includes McCool, Goodman, Rinnai and King Electric.

Some of their most popular furnaces are residential gas and electric furnaces. Also, these include upflow/horizontal furnaces with a nine-speed motor.

eComfort

A division of Power Equipment Direct, Comfort, provides affordable HVAC products online. eComfort furnace inventory includes Goodman, Rinnai, Comfort Aire, King Electric, and Evolv. eComfort focuses on high-level customer technical support and responsive shipping schedules.

National Air Warehouse

National Air Warehouse is a national air conditioning installation company based in Florida. From a humble start, they have become a national online heating and cooling company. Focusing on quality home furnaces, they carry such brands as Rheem and Goodman.

They keep prices low by buying from the manufacturer and eliminating the middleman. Shipping is fast from one of their 12 nationwide distribution centers.

The Furnace Outlet

Founded in 2001 in Ohio, The Furnace Outlet’s mission was to drop the middleman. They bought directly from the manufacturer to pass the savings on to the customer. The Furnace Outlet passes the savings to the customer without the middleman’s markup.

Their Lowest Price Guarantee ensures customers get the best pricing for HVAC products. Among these HVAC products are Goodman, Rinnai and Navien.

The company provides world-class customer service 24 hours, seven days a week. They also offer quick and hassle-free returns on any problematic products.

Budget Heating and Air

For the past 20 years, Budget Heating and Air have been a leader in providing HVAC products online. They have two massive warehouses forming one the largest distribution center in America.

They inventory quality HVAC products like Rheem, Goodman, DiamondAire, Mitsubishi, and Daikin. Budget Heating and Air also provide extra eCommerce website security.