Best Gas Furnaces
Choosing Your Next Gas Furnace
We've evaluated gas furnaces since 2014, spending over 100 hours researching the top brands in the industry. As we researched for this review, we looked at 133 models from 10 of the best manufacturers. These brands are prominent in the HVAC market because they have a history of manufacturing reliable, durable and energy-efficient units. We’ve compiled information about these major manufacturers in this guide to help you make an educated decision when buying your furnace.
Best for Most Homes: Bryant
Bryant started operations in the early 1900s, specializing in gas-fired water heaters. Over the past century, it has produced quality gas furnace lines, namely its Evolution, Preferred and Legacy products. Bryant began adding high-efficiency features in its gas furnaces as early as 1981, leading the way for homeowners to save money on their forced air heating bills. We believe Bryant gas furnaces are a good fit for most homes since they're in the middle of the pack in terms of price and performance. Bryant's lineup of furnaces provides you with a wide range of choices, including the Bryant Evolution 987M, a modulating gas furnace that runs at up to 98.3 percent AFUE.
Best Value: Amana
Amana is a well-recognized name in the gas furnace industry, having provided homes with quality heat solutions for nearly a century. When you combine the efficiency of its gas furnaces with its lifetime warranty, you get one of the best values in the industry. Our research revealed that Amana gas furnaces are often less expensive than other brands we evaluated. Currently, this manufacturer offers 17 gas furnaces, including standard and high-efficiency models. Amana's best furnace is the AMVM97, a modulating two-stage furnace that runs at up to 98 percent AFUE.
Best Energy Efficiency: Rheem
Rheem is a central air and heating manufacturer known for its wide selection of durable products. This manufacturer builds more two-stage units than any other gas furnace company – among the 20 Rheem models we looked at, there are six with an AFUE rating of 96 percent of higher. Rheem's most efficient gas furnace is the Prestige Series R98V, which has an AFUE rating of up to 98.7 percent, making it the most efficient model we came across during our research. The R98V’s exceptional performance comes from a modulating design and a variable-speed blower. This gas furnace, along with many other Rheem models, is Energy Star qualified.
What to Look For
A Professional Should Install Your Gas Furnace
Most HVAC contractors have the education, skill and familiarity required to install your gas furnace properly and safely. This includes the ability to do brazing, electrical work, plumbing and framing if necessary. They should also be licensed and certified to install your new furnace. If a contractor is unable or reluctant to supply this information, that's a sign to choose someone else.
As you search for a contractor, you can check out their reputations using online customer reviews on Yelp, Google and similar websites. If they don't stand up to scrutiny, don't use them, even if they are the lowest bid. Natural gas furnaces are long-term investments, so don't budge on getting the best appliance and installation your budget allows.
A good HVAC professional will listen to your requests, answer your questions, clearly outline the required work and costs, and know detailed information about the gas furnace’s warranty. Installers will also have gas furnace suggestions for your home.
When selecting a furnace, consider its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. This standard was created by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and represents how much heat a furnace produces from a cubic foot of gas. For example, an AFUE rating of 96 percent means the furnace produces 96 Btu of useful heat for every 100 Btu of natural gas burned.
Furnaces with high AFUE ratings can save you a significant amount of money in heating and electricity bills. However, the furnaces with the highest AFUE ratings normally cost more than other models, so you may want to compare the higher cost with your potential energy bill savings over time to see if it's worth the investment.
The national minimum efficiency AFUE requirement is 78 percent, though most modern units start around 80 percent. Although the most efficient furnaces we came across during our research have an AFUE of 98.7 percent, over half of the models we evaluated have an AFUE rating above 90 percent.
Every home is different in its layout, ducting, insulation, materials and location. A natural gas furnace that is too small will not produce adequate heat in the winter or circulate enough cool air in the summer. Conversely, a system that is too large for your home will cost more to run and not efficiently maintain correct temperatures. Check with your contractor for suggestions on the best size for your home, local climate conditions and budget.
Gas furnaces use heat exchangers to produce heat; these come in two varieties: single-stage and two-stage. Single-stage furnaces switch on and off until your home reaches the desired temperature. These are usually older, less-efficient models and are a good choice for most homes. In two-stage gas furnaces, a second, stronger stage turns on to achieve quicker results with less effort and fuel when the first stage is not effective enough.
In addition to heat exchangers, most gas furnaces have a blower that blows at an unalterable speed. However, you can get a variable-speed blower that tailors its output to provide constant heat in a longer, less demanding cycle. As a result, variable-speed furnace blowers use less gas and operate more quietly.
Some furnaces have a special modulating gas valve that works together with a variable-speed blower to provide stable temperatures in a home. Modulating furnaces can reach an AFUE of up to 98 percent. While they cost more, these furnaces maximize your comfort and can greatly reduce your overall energy costs.
Gas furnaces usually carry two individual warranties: one for the heat exchanger and another for all other parts. The heat exchanger is the most important part of the furnace and should have the longest warranty possible, preferably over 20 years. However, the parts warranty only needs to be five to 10 years. As a separate consideration, your contractor should provide a warranty on their installation.
Discuss the availability of manufacturer rebates or tax credits with your installer. This is a great way to save money and offset the initial cost of a new furnace. Government agencies actively encourage homeowners to improve their energy consumption, and you may be able to deduct the purchase of a new heating system on your taxes. In a similar way, your utility company may offer a rebate, depending on the furnace you choose. For more information, you can also visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), a resource created by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center that catalogs energy efficiency incentives and policies throughout the United States.
Picking a Thermostat
While installing or replacing a gas furnace goes a long way in cutting energy bills and keeping your home warm, it also helps to have a good thermostat. If you don't already have a programmable thermostat, it's a good way to optimize your home's heating based on a schedule. Another option is a smart thermostat that lets you control the HVAC system with your smartphone. Smart thermostats, like the Nest Learning Thermostat and the ecobee4, also help you learn better ways to save energy. Many gas furnace manufacturers also make thermostats, though you can check with your contractor for other suggestions.
Switching From Oil Furnaces
While gas furnaces are the standard for forced air heating across the nation, some regions, such as the northeastern United States, still use oil furnaces as their heaters. If you are considering converting from an oil furnace to a gas furnace, consult with a licensed professional to learn about your options. The cost of converting to a gas-line furnace varies, depending on availability, location and labor. Depending on your budget, it may be best to stay with an oil furnace rather than converting.
Contributing Reviewer: John Carlsen