The Best Furnaces
We’ll be honest: It’s impossible for us to tell you which furnace you should buy. The size of your house, your area’s climate, and local rebates all determine which model is the best fit for you. That said, in our evaluations of furnace manufacturers, we found three brands that consistently outranked the rest in terms of efficiency, durability, and customer satisfaction — these are great places to start your search. We’ll also walk you through choosing a reputable contractor, deciding whether to repair or replace your current furnace, and getting the most out of your new heater.
How We Chose the Best Furnaces
Furnace efficiency is like the gas mileage on your car: The higher it is, the more you’ll get out of each dollar of fuel you buy. Efficiency is measured by AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency), which refers to how well your furnace translates fuel into heat. In the ‘70s, most gas furnaces had an AFUE around 65%; today, the bare minimum allowed by law is 78%. Every furnace we considered ranged between 80% and 98% AFUE, but where you fall on that spectrum depends on your climate, house size, and budget. High-AFUE furnaces save you money long-term — particularly in cold climates — but they’re also more expensive upfront. You can find out how to determine the right furnace size and efficiency for your home in our guide below.
ENERGY STAR® certification
ENERGY STAR® is a government-backed organization that works with the EPA to help consumers identify energy-efficient appliances for their homes. We only considered brands offering models that meet ENERGY STAR®’s strict guidelines: baseline efficiency, minimal air leakage, and an electronically controlled motor. These furnaces minimize your home’s fuel bills and its impact on the environment. No company has the ENERGY STAR® label on all of its furnaces, but we wanted to recommend brands that at least offered that option.
Repairing your furnace is right at the top of the list of Least Fun Things to Spend Your Money On. We didn’t want to recommend brands that would require frequent repairs, so we turned to Consumer Reports’ research on breakdown rates among major furnace manufacturers. To determine which brands are the most reliable, Consumer Reports had its 21,618 subscribers report on how often their furnaces “break down or stop functioning well enough to sufficiently heat a home” in the first three years of ownership. York was the only company we eliminated due to its breakdown rate. At 19%, it was a full 4% less reliable than any other brand, and we couldn’t feel confident recommending it.
A lengthy warranty is a good sign that a company believes in the quality of its product and is willing to put some money behind that belief. We only considered manufacturers that had at least a 10-year warranty for parts. All three of our top picks top this with a 20-year warranty on the heat exchanger, the most essential (and expensive) part of a furnace — and select models from Ruud and Goodman even stretch this into a lifetime warranty.
The 3 Best Furnaces
- Trane –
Most Efficient Furnaces
- Ruud –
Most Reliable Furnaces
- Goodman –
Best Budget Furnaces
Most Efficient Furnaces
When it comes to efficiency, Trane’s selection can’t be beat.
Why we chose it
If you’re looking for the most energy-efficient furnace on the market, we think Trane is your best bet. Its top-of-the-line models are as good as it gets: up to 97.3% AFUE, ENERGY STAR® certified, and state-of-the-art modulating valves (which increases efficiency even more). For houses that need to be heated through long, bitterly cold winters, this efficiency means significantly lower gas bills.
In Consumer Reports’ study on breakdown rates among major gas furnace manufacturers, Trane and its sister company American Standard came in at an impressive 9% — second only to Ruud at 8%. This means that 91% of Trane furnaces made it through the first three years without needing any major repairs. When you invest in a Trane furnace, you can feel confident that it’s with you for the long haul.
Widely available replacement parts
If your Trane furnace does needs repairs, Trane’s huge U.S. presence means that replacement parts are never far away. And since American Standard is owned by the same company (Ingersoll Rand), many of the furnace parts are interchangeable, making them even more readily accessible.
Points to consider
Furnace prices are a lot like insurance premiums — highly personal and impacted by factors like home size, climate, and your local dealer’s prices. Installation costs are also usually double what you pay for the actual furnace, and those can change drastically depending on what contractor you go with. That said, Trane makes top-of-the-line heaters, and its prices reflect that. Home Advisor estimates that Trane furnaces cost an average of $1,275 for a 1,600-2,000-square-foot house, with another $3,560 for installation. This makes it the third most expensive company on Home Advisor’s list of the fourteen most popular furnace-makers. That’s $60 more than the average price for a furnace and $1,190 more for installation.
Even so, Trane still could end up saving you money. Richard Ciresi, franchise owner of Aire Serv, told us to think of the big picture when shopping around: “Keep in mind: Although higher-rated models may cost more, that additional cost can be recuperated over the life of the furnace in drastically reduced energy bills.” You can find more on Trane’s costs in its pricing guide.
Most Reliable Furnaces
Ruud makes the most durable furnaces around. And in the rare cases they do need repairs, they’re covered by the best warranties in the industry.
Why we chose it
When Consumer Reports tracked the breakdown rate of furnaces in over 21,000 homes over the course of five years, no brand performed better than Ruud. An astonishingly low 8% of Ruud furnaces failed during that period, nearly three times less than last place York. If properly installed, you can rest easy knowing that you won’t need to make frequent repairs to your heater.
Ruud’s reputation for durability is backed by its impressive warranties, some of the best we saw in our search. All of its furnaces come with a 10-year limited parts warranty, along with lifetime replacement on the heat exchanger. But if you opt for one of the high-end Ultra Series models and the system fails, Ruud will replace the entire unit, as long as it’s in the original home with the original owner — an offer we didn’t see from any other brand.
While Trane boasts impressively high efficiency across its entire lineup of furnaces, it’s worth noting that Ruud has two of the most state-of-the-art models around, with ENERGY STAR® naming the U97V and U98V two of its most efficient furnaces for 2018. Their modulating gas valves allow the furnaces to run anywhere from 40% to 100% capacity. That means it will only use as much fuel as it needs to keep the house at your desired temperature, keeping your heater from going full blast at the first sign of crisp fall nights.
Points to consider
Unreliable air conditioner package systems
Many homeowners choose to replace their air conditioners at the same time as their furnace. Furnaces typically last about twice as long as air conditioners, so there’s a good chance they’ll both be nearing replacement age at the same time, and doing it all at once can cut down on installation costs. An experienced technician should have no problem installing a furnace and air conditioner made by different companies, but if you’re replacing both at once, it makes sense to stick with the same brand. These often come in “package systems,” meaning all the parts are contained in a single unit and are necessarily made by the same company.
If you want to go this route, we’d recommend steering clear of Ruud. Ruud air conditioners received one of the worst reliability ratings from Consumer Reports, with a 21% chance of breaking down in the first five years of ownership. And when they do, they’re often difficult to fix. Tim K. at All Systems Mechanical says he avoids them at all costs “because of their ‘unique’ zig-zag coil configuration, which freezes up faster than their competitors (that’s bad), and is impossible to clean, often leading to premature replacement.” For easy packaging of your furnace and air conditioner, you’re better off with Trane, which received much better scores in this regard.
On average, Ruud furnaces are on the higher end when it comes to price. And that makes sense — they’re some of the most reliable and efficient products out there. Home Advisor estimates that the average Ruud furnace costs $1,185 plus another $3,180 to install. That makes it the fourth most expensive brand out of 14 — one spot behind Trane.
Best Budget Furnaces
Goodman furnaces are some of the most affordable around, but they might need more repairs in the long run.
Why we chose it
Affordable price and installation
Goodman makes some of the most reasonably priced furnaces around. Home Advisor estimates that the average Goodman furnace goes for $695, with installation around $1,860 for the average home. That among the lowest of any major brand — Payne narrowly edged out Goodman with a $680 average price and $1,820 installation. It’s also about half the cost of our other top picks, Trane and Ruud.
6 ENERGY STAR® certified models
Even though Goodman furnaces are incredibly affordable, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll pay more on your monthly bill. It offers six models that are ENERGY STAR® certified, with AFUE going all the way up to 98% — as efficient as top models from our other picks.
Points to consider
Higher breakdown rate
Goodman falls behind our other picks when it comes to reliability. Consumer Reports found that Goodman (and its sister company Amana) are some of the least durable furnaces of the major brands, breaking down 15% of the time in the first three years of ownership. The only company with a worse score was York at 19%. While that is a concerning figure, you can take some comfort in Goodman’s generous warranty: In addition to a 10-year limited parts and lifetime heat exchanger warranty, Goodman will also replace the entire unit if the heat exchanger fails in the first 10 years.
It comes down to time versus money. With Goodman, you may have to deal with the headache of hiring a technician for repairs, getting replacement parts covered, and potentially going without a working furnace for a period of time. While you’ll pay more for brands like Trane and Ruud, you’re also getting greater peace of mind.
How to Find the Right Furnace for You
Decide what features you need
There’s no one best furnace for everyone. The model you choose is impacted by things like your region’s climate and the size of your home. A one-story ranch in Texas will have much different heating needs than a 3,000-square-foot house in Minnesota. When shopping around, you’ll likely come across a number of features that all impact heating efficiency. Here are some of the most important:
- AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency): The most common measure of efficiency in furnaces, AFUE measures how well your furnace converts fuel into heat. A furnace with 80% AFUE means you’ll get $.80 of heat for every dollar you spend. High AFUE furnaces tend to be a lot pricier, and they’re likely overkill if you live in a mild climate or a small home.
- Single-Stage vs. Two-Stage: In single-stage furnaces, the valve that controls the burner only has two settings: on and off. That means that it’s going full blast whenever it’s running. When it heats your house to its desired temperature, it then shuts off until it’s needed again. Two-stage furnaces can operate at three positions: open, closed, and partially open for chillier days (usually providing about 60% to 65% of the fully open setting). Two-stage furnaces are much more efficient but probably unnecessary in areas with mild winters.
- Variable Speed Fan: This is a type of fan that can change the speed at which it blows air over the burner. Like two-stage furnaces, this helps to increase efficiency on cool but not freezing days. Since the fan is what you hear when the furnace is running, it also makes the unit quieter. This is a nice-to-have feature for any type of home and climate, and it’s particularly useful for those in-between temperatures around 35 to 50 degrees F.
- Modulating Valve: Another feature that increases a furnace’s efficiency, modulating valves regulate how much fuel is injected into your furnace at one time. Like two-stage furnaces and variable speed fans, it’s not entirely necessary in warmer climates.
- Zoned Heating: Found on the most advanced furnaces, zoned heating is useful for large houses. These furnaces use a number of thermostats and controllers around your home to direct heating and cooling to different areas. If one room has many windows, for example, your system might send more heat to this area in the winter.
Choose a contractor
Many experts say that finding a good contractor is even more important than choosing the right furnace brand. To start, they will help you determine the furnace size you need for your home. Make sure your contractor determines what size you need based on an industry standard like the “Manual J HVAC Residential Load Calculation” of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
If you’ve already decided on a furnace brand you like, your best option is to find a technician licensed to work on those products specifically through the company’s website. They’ll know those furnaces inside and out and will be able to calculate exactly which model fits your needs best. If you’re not set on a specific manufacturer and want to find a contractor first, we like Porch.com, which connects you with qualified HVAC technicians in your area.
Apply for rebates
Depending on where you live, you may qualify for utility rebates if you purchase an energy-efficient furnace. All three of our top picks have rebate finders attached to each of their eligible models on their websites, going up to as much as $350. And if you purchase an ENERGY STAR® certified model, you can also use ENERGY STAR®’s ZIP code tool to check for rebates in your area.
Register your furnace warranty
No matter what brand of furnace you go with, it’s essential that you register its warranty with the company as quickly as possible. In most cases, manufacturers give you 60 days to register your furnace, at which point the warranty period typically doubles from five to 10 years. It generally only takes a few minutes, and it could save you thousands later on.
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Should I replace my air conditioner at the same time as my furnace?
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The Best Furnaces: Summed Up
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