Types of Furnaces and How They Work

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The process of finding the right heating equipment for your home may be a daunting task. Although there are various options to consider, a furnace remains the most popular home heating solution. The reason is simple; it comes with great features and benefits, including high efficiency, low operating noise, longer shelf life, compatibility, and much more.

So, if you’re planning to upgrade your home heating system, this informative article is for you. It talks about the different types of furnaces available and how they work to give you a desirable home temperature.

What is a Furnace?

A furnace can be termed as one of the main components of your HVAC system. It gets activated as soon as you set your thermostat while circulating the warm air through your home. However, how the heat is transferred to the air highly depends on the type of furnace selected.

There are four types of furnaces available: natural gas, propane, heating oil, and electric. Once the air is heated in any of these furnaces, it will enter your home through the web of ductwork. Generally, these furnaces are installed in basements, attics, or crawlspaces.

Types of Furnaces

Choosing a new furnace for your home requires a thorough understanding of the types of furnaces available.

Gas Furnace

goodman multi speed horizontal gas furnace

Gas furnaces are quite prominent in North American homes as they provide a safe, comfortable, and reliable heating solution. In recent years, gas furnaces have become more efficient, advanced, and more technology-oriented.


  • Highly efficient
  • Affordable
  • Easily Installed
  • Smart Home Compatible
  • Wide Range

What to Consider When Buying a Gas Furnace

When it comes to buying a gas furnace, you will find that size does matter. You need to find a gas furnace that fits your needs. If it is too small, it won’t keep your home at a comfortable temperature. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Ductwork: To circulate heat throughout your home, your gas furnace will require ductwork.
  • Availability: If you are in rural areas, there are high chances of gas not being available. Hence, your area is one of the main deciding factors while choosing the type of furnace.
  • Size: Gas furnaces take more space as they are generally larger than a ductless split.
  • Maintenance: Scheduling annual maintenance is mandatory if you are choosing a gas furnace.

Propane Furnace

martin direct vent propane wall heater furnace

Generally, people choose propane furnaces in rural areas or areas where other fuels are scarce, expensive, or unavailable. You will need to install a propane tank outside your home to operate a propane furnace. You will also need a professional service company to refill your furnace with propane.


  • Easily available
  • Highly efficient

What to Consider When Buying a Propane Furnace

When considering a propane furnace for the home, consider the following points:

  • Refueling and Storage: As mentioned above, the propane tanks can only be filled by a trained, certified, and licensed professional. You must store propane in government-approved outdoor storage containers.
  • Ductwork: Like a gas furnace, propane furnaces also require ductwork to circulate heat throughout your home.
  • Cost: The propane furnace is comparatively expensive than a gas furnace. However, at the same time, it is also a cost-effective solution when compared to an electric furnace.
  • Maintenance: Scheduling regular inspection by a trusted professional is recommended for propane furnace.

Oil Furnace

If you live in an area where it is more difficult or expensive to get other fuel options like gas, considering the oil furnace is a great alternative. This fuel furnace is easily available. However, it has become less popular over the years due to concerns like efficiency, emissions, and operating costs.


  • Easily available
  • Smart home compatible

What to Consider While Buying an Oil Furnace

An oil furnace is said to last between 15 and 20 years when it is well-maintained. However, as it ages, it begins to heat the home less efficiently. Here are a few more points to remember if you are considering an oil furnace:

  • Ductwork: An oil furnace requires ductwork to circulate heat throughout your home.
  • Efficiency: Oil furnaces are known to be less efficient as compared to most of the modern gas and propane furnace options.
  • Storage: You will need to install a tank outside your home to hold the fuel.
  • Price: Oil furnaces tend to be more expensive than gas or propane furnaces.
  • Maintenance: Scheduling regular maintenance is recommended for its efficient operation.

Electric Furnace

garrison 15 kw electric furnace

Unlike the furnaces mentioned above, electric furnaces produce heat using electric heating elements controlled by circuit breakers. The higher operational costs attached to it makes it the least popular furnace type for heating homes.


  • Uses clean, renewable electricity
  • Absence of carbon emissions
  • No flue pipe or chimney required
  • A feasible option for areas where electricity is low-priced

What to Consider When Buying an Electric Furnace

Electric furnaces do cost more annually to operate when compared to gas furnaces, for example.

  • Price: The electric furnace is going to be expensive in most regions due to increased energy charges.
  • Comparison: If you plan to invest in an electric furnace, it is recommended to compare it with other options, including heat pumps and baseboard heating.

Although every type of furnace is available today, electric and oil furnaces are gradually becoming extinct due to the fact that they are not as economical as the gas furnaces.

How Does Your Gas Furnace Work?

  1. Set your thermostat to the desired temperature
  2. The thermostat sensor monitors the temperature and directs the furnace to start heating when required
  3. Once the furnace receives the signal from the thermostat, the induced draft motor is switched on by its furnace control
  4. The igniter gets activated as soon as a pressure switch senses a pressure change
  5. The fuel gets released to the burners
  6. Burners begin igniting in sequence while warming the heat exchangers
  7. A flame sensor will ensure consistent fuel flow as long as it is burning
  8. The blower fan further moves the heat into the ducts
  9. The limit switches constantly monitor the airflow
  10. The control board shuts off the gas as soon as the thermostat signals that it has reached the desired temperature

The Takeaway

To summarize, consider choosing a gas furnace for your home heating system. Go for a high-efficient furnace system that guarantees quality and value. You may even take the help of a local expert by asking for a free consultation and estimate.

Once you select the furnace and have it properly installed, make sure to consider its annual maintenance. Always remember, a well-maintained furnace lasts longer and saves money by operating more efficiently. Lastly, enjoy a cozy home with a desirable temperature during the cold winter months.

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