Exploring the Many Types of Furnaces

It’s the time of year to start thinking about your heating system. Chances are, it is one of the types of furnaces listed below. If you’re thinking about exploring different options or learning more about how you heat your home, here’s a reference guide. These are the most common types of furnaces.

What is a Furnace?

Before we explore the different varieties, let’s cover the basics. What is a furnace? Well, it’s one of the most important parts of your HVAC system. Your furnace is heating the air that circulates through your home via ducts and registers.

Furnaces, also known as forced air systems, aren’t just used for heat output. They also factor in the way your HVAC system cools your home.

Main Furnace Components
  • Air Filter
  • Blower
  • Heat Exchanger

Adjusting your thermostat signals the furnace to activate and begin heating air. The air passes through the filter, sometimes located at the base of the furnace. From there, the blower sends it through the heat exchanger, which heats the air. The blower continues to cycle air through this process, sending it out from the furnace’s location to the rest of your home.

As your HVAC system cools the air, the heat exchanger is not activated. Instead, warm air is cooled by the evaporator coil as it passes through, as with all air conditioning systems.

Even if you don’t have an air conditioner, a furnace’s blower fan can sometimes be used to cool your home by recirculating the air.

When your furnace is heating your home, the transfer of heat occurs due to one of the heat sources listed below.

The 3 Most Common Types of Furnaces

Natural Gas Furnaces

Most homes in the US that are heated by a central furnace rely on natural gas. That’s because it tends to be relatively inexpensive. Especially compared with oil or electric furnaces. It’s also cheaper than propane or electric heat pumps in colder areas.

Natural gas is primarily made up of methane, along with many other compounds like carbon dioxide, water vapor, and other non-hydrocarbon gases. It travels into your home through the gas line, which brings it to the furnace.

This fuel ignites through gas jets inside the furnace. The heat transfers through the air through a heat exchanger. With a single-stage furnace, this is the whole cycle. Once the furnace produces the temperature on the thermostat setting, it shuts off, until it needs to reactivate.

With a modulating furnace, it doesn’t run at full capacity to hit the temperature setting. Instead, it runs incrementally at varying capacities, ensuring that heat is evenly distributed throughout the home. This is quieter, more efficient, and more consistent, but also entails greater upfront cost.

Oil Furnaces

Some regions throughout the country don’t have access to a municipal natural gas line. In many areas, particularly New England, oil furnaces are an available alternative. They operate similarly to natural gas, basically only differing in the source of fuel.

Oil furnaces aren’t as energy-efficient or cost-efficient as natural gas furnaces. However, they are cheaper to install. As a source of fuel, it’s more expensive, less eco-friendly, and often imported. This makes it subject to more drastic price hikes.

On the other hand, oil furnaces are more capable of evenly heating a home than single-stage gas furnaces. They tend to have a slightly longer lifespan than natural gas furnaces (with proper maintenance). Also, they don’t pose the same risk of carbon monoxide leaking into the home.

Electric Furnaces

Electric furnaces are another option. They’re generally more compact and offer easy, affordable installation. Like oil furnaces, they don’t can’t compete with the high efficiency of natural gas, but electric furnaces do have some worthwhile features.

In addition to lower upfront costs, they tend to last up to a decade longer than natural gas furnaces. Maintenance is simple, and electrically powered units are less likely to require professional attention. They also don’t have the potential concern of a carbon monoxide leak.

As with any heating or cooling system, the location of the home in question is a big factor. In many areas, an electric furnace is a sufficient heat source without utility bills being too costly. If the furnace is needed for a severe winter, it may not be a cost-effective approach.

Getting Your Furnace Ready for Winter

With cold, snowy days around the corner, now is a great time to start preparing to heat your home. Whether you rely on one of these types of furnaces or another heat source, you’ll be needing it sooner than you expect!

If you’re in South Jersey, reach out to Laury Heating Cooling & Plumbing for annual HVAC maintenance to get your furnace tuned up by the pros! If you have any questions about different alternatives, modifications, or possible concerns, don’t hesitate to ask your local HVAC techs at Laury Heating Cooling & Plumbing!

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