How Much Does a New Furnace Cost?
If your heater is on the fritz, or if you’re just considering updating your old furnace for a newer, more efficient model, you’ll probably find yourself searching the Internet to figure out how much a new home furnace will cost you. (Not sure if you have a furnace, boiler, or heat pump, click here to find out.)
Because there are so many factors affecting the cost of a furnace installation, any reputable HVAC company will require an in-home consultation before giving you an actual cost. (If they’re willing to give you a number without visiting your home, RUN! They’re either overcharging to make sure they cover any unknowns, or they simply don’t know what they’re doing.)
Our Pennsylvania customers in the Lehigh Valley and in and around Harrisburg, PA, Lancaster, PA and Reading, PA frequently ask for a ballpark figure on the cost of a furnace replacement. To help you know what to expect, we will attempt to answer the dreaded cost question here, and let you know which factors will affect your bottom line furnace replacement cost.
What Factors Will Affect the Cost of a New Furnace?
The cost of a home furnace replacement can vary widely depending on many factors. The biggest factors for a Pennsylvania homeowner to consider are:
- Furnace options
- The size and layout of your home and your existing ductwork
- Whether or not you need additional work to meet safety codes
While a basic, bottom-of-the-line natural gas furnace can start around $3,500 - $4,500 with installation, these types of systems may not meet the needs of all homeowners, and may not even work for every home. We will attempt to discuss the factors affecting your installation costs below and give you a general idea of how each will affect your furnace installation costs.
Furnace Options: Brand
The first option to consider is the brand name of your new furnace. A reputable HVAC contractor will specialize in just a few reputable brand names. This allows them to specialize in those brands, making sure that their employees are properly trained to install your heating system to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Just like with any product, brand names can affect pricing. If you want the “best of the best” in brand names – ones backed by a long company history, good reviews, and a rock-solid warranty - expect to pay a thousand dollars or more for the better brand. Discuss these options with your estimator to see if the difference in costs is worth it for you and your family. Often times, it is.
Furnace Options: System Size & Efficiency
When it comes to furnace size, bigger is not always better. In fact an over-sized furnace can actually cause your system to run inefficiently, costing you more money and leaving your home less comfortable.
Older furnaces are often sized bigger than what is required now. New systems have much higher AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) ratings, which is a measure of how efficiently your system utilizes its fuel source. These higher efficiencies mean that you can now get the same amount of heating out of a smaller unit. For example, if your old furnace is a 100,000 BTU (British Thermal Unit) system, rated at 75% efficiency, you can replace that system with an 80,000 BTU unit that is rated at 94% efficiency, and still get the same amount of heating out of the system.
When you’re considering options, you may be looking at the difference between, say, an 85% efficient furnace and a 94% efficient furnace. The difference in upfront cost may be a several thousand dollars. But that additional expense may be justified in the long run simply for the monthly savings in heating bills. According to the Department of Energy, about half of your home energy costs can be attributed to heating and cooling your home. If your new system will save you, say, 50% on your utility bill, the added up-front cost of a more efficient system may very well be the more cost-effective option in the long run.
The professional doing your in-home estimate should be able to help you with a cost-savings analysis. If he or she cannot help you to understand sizing and efficiency ratings, you should probably shop elsewhere, or you may end up with an improperly-sized system - not what you want after investing thousands of dollars.
Furnace Options: Two-Stage vs. Single Stage Furnace
A traditional, single stage furnace has only two settings – it’s either on at 100%, or it’s off. While this model furnace will cost less to purchase and install, it will have a lower energy efficiency, so it will cost more to run. You may also notice more hot or cold spots and inconsistent temperatures throughout the home.
Upgrading to a two-stage furnace may run from $500-$1500 more. With a two-stage system, your system will have the added ability to run on low most of the time. The furnace will automatically switch to high if, and only if, it’s needed. This helps to deliver more consistent heat throughout the house and results in fewer temperature differences. The two-stage furnace will also run more quietly and at a higher energy-efficiency, saving you money in heating costs in the long run.
Furnace Options: Single-Speed vs. Multi-Speed vs. Variable-Speed Blower Motor
A single-speed blower motor used to be the only option for your home furnace. This type of furnace had only one speed for the blower motor, meaning it was either blowing at full blast, or it was off. A bottom-of-the-line furnace may only have a single-speed blower motor, making it less efficient and noisier.
One step up from the single-speed blower motor is what is called a multi-speed blower (or two-speed blower or three-speed blower, etc.). The multi-speed blower motor will continuously adjust itself between two or more pre-set speeds. This provides more energy efficiency, which means lower heating bills. Additionally, you may see better humidity control and better air quality as air is more consistently being circulated throughout the house. Maintenance costs tend to be lower too, when you choose a multi-speed blower over the less expensive single-speed option.
The difference in upfront installation costs between a single-stage and multi-stage blower may run several hundred dollars.
If you want even more flexibility and energy efficiency, you can opt for a top-of-the-line variable-speed blower. Whereas the multi-speed blower can adjust to run at two or more preset speeds, the variable-speed blower utilizes a newer technology called an ECM motor, which runs off DC power. This allows the furnace blower to run anywhere between 0% and 100%. This gives your home a more consistent blowing approach, providing more precise temperatures throughout the day or night.
Opting for a variable-speed blower motor can add $500-$1000 to your upfront installation costs, but will give you the most energy efficient system available, possibly saving you hundreds of dollars or more in both heating fuel and electricity bills each year. Benefits of the variable-stage blower include those listed above for the multi-stage blower, plus the additional benefits of more consistent heating throughout the house, cleaner indoor air quality, and noise reduction.
Your Home’s Specific Requirements
The next variable affecting the cost of your new furnace installation has less to do with the options you want, and more to do with what your unique Pennsylvania home requires. A bottom of the line furnace may not work for every home based on factors such as the size of the home, the layout, or the existing ductwork.
When the HVAC estimator comes in to your home, he or she should ask you questions about your existing system including asking whether or not you have hot or cold spots and if your home is consistently comfortable. The answers to these questions, and an examination of the existing system and setup will help him or her to determine if you need a different sized furnace, additional ductwork or changes to existing duct work, more air registers, etc.
Clearly, these additional changes can add significantly to the cost of a furnace installation. The difference could be a few hundred dollars to a several thousand dollars, depending on the unique needs in your home.
Additional Safety Requirements & Permits
Other factors that can affect your installation costs are related to safety and legal requirements. Your county (Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Lehigh, Dauphin, Cumberland, etc.) or your city or township (Bethlehem, Chester Springs, Pottstown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, etc.) can have its own specific ordinances and regulations.
These added costs can include, for example, adding a chimney liner when switching fuel sources or if your current chimney is not up to code. If you install an 80% efficient furnace, you will be able to use your existing chimney provided the chimney is inspected, and it will require a properly-sized liner. Liners are required about 90-95% of the time, with an average cost of about $800-$1500. Similarly, if you opt for a 90% efficient model, your new system would be vented to the outside using PVC piping. This new venting and pipes can add to your installation costs.
Additionally, many cities and municipalities require that permits be pulled for this type of home improvement project. Any reputable HVAC company will make sure that this step is complete to keep you both legal and safe.
Another concern may arise if your current system is not up to code for other reasons. Even if it was up to code when originally installed, safety and legal requirements in Pennsylvania and around the country do change over time, and what was once considered acceptable may now be considered unsafe. One example of this is “confined space” requirements, which could require accommodations be made to allow enough air flow, or could even require that your HVAC systems be moved.
Another safety-related concern would be if there is asbestos in your home. Any reputable HVAC contractor will require the involvement of a certified abatement company to properly remove the asbestos, per EPA standards.
Another factor that can affect the cost of your furnace installation is the fuel source you select. Natural gas tends to be the preferred fuel source in Pennsylvania – it’s inexpensive, clean, and reliable - but it’s not always available at your home. Those in bigger cities like Harrisburg, PA, Lancaster, PA, Allentown, PA, Reading, PA, or Lebanon, PA are more likely to have access to natural gas already on their street.
If natural gas is available, and you do no currently have gas in your home, talk to your estimator about your options for converting. The upfront cost of converting may cost more, but operational costs in the long run tend to make up the difference over the upcoming years.
If you already have natural gas in your home, then a natural gas furnaces tends to be the least expensive to purchase, and is the hand-down favorite option. (Homes with natural gas may have a higher house value, and tend to sell quicker.)
A propane (or LP) furnace may cost a few hundred dollars more than a natural gas option, and is the next best thing to gas. It is clean burning, efficient, and tends to be less expensive to operate than electric or oil furnaces.
Electric and oil furnaces tend cost a bit more to purchase and install, and definitely cost more to operate.
Optional Add-Ons: Indoor Air Quality, Smart Thermostats & Wi-Fi Connected Home Products
The next set of factors affecting the cost of your new furnace installation are more “nice to have” options. While these may not be absolute necessities, now is a good time to take advantage of these extras to get the full benefit out of your new heating system, and they will likely cost less to add during the installation, as opposed to adding them separately later. Plus, if you are financing your new system, a few add-ons may cost just a few more dollars per month.
There are various options available for Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) that include air cleaners & purification systems. While this may not be necessary for everyone, it is definitely worth considering, especially if anyone in the home suffers from allergies, asthma or other respiratory concerns. Depending on what you’re looking for, IAQ products may add a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to your installation costs.
Humidification options can also significantly improve the comfort in your home. A whole-house humidifier (or dehumidifier) can help you feel warm in the winter and cool in the summer, improve the air you breathe, and help with other problems like dry, cracked furniture in the home.
Other options fall in to the “cool new gadgets” category and include Wi-Fi enabled, “smart” devices. These include thermostats that can “learn” your habits, and allow you to adjust your home HVAC systems from virtually anywhere. (These are great for “snow birds” who winter in the South but want to maintain control over their Pennsylvania home.)
Other items you can add into your installation include indoor and outdoor security cameras, doorbell cameras, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Prices of these devices & installation can run around $150-$750 per device.
How Can I Pay for My New Furnace?
If you’ve been doing the math, you’ve seen that the cost of a new furnace installation could vary greatly depending on the items that you NEED, and the options that you WANT. Your HVAC sales estimator should provide you with a few options at different price points, and should be able to walk you through various options to pay for this home improvement project.
A reputable HVAC company will likely offer various financing options, including second-look and even no-credit check options. Your estimator can walk you through these options to see what works best for your family and your budget.
Additionally, your HVAC sales person should be able to help you take advantage of any rebates that are available. Rebates may be available from specific manufactures. Additionally, many local gas and electric utilities in Pennsylvania offer rebates for converting to natural gas, or for upgrading to energy-efficient equipment. If, for example, you’re looking at a price difference of $1500 between a 90% efficient unit and a 92% efficient unit, but there’s a $900 rebate available for the more efficient model, your actual cost difference is only $600. Your estimator should be able to help you evaluate all of these options.
Make Sure You Know Who You’re Working With
Lastly, when considering your new furnace installation, make sure you know who you’re dealing with. A cheaper priced company may very well indicate a cheaper workmanship. Consider how long the contractor has been around – will they be around next year to back up their work? What sort of guaranties do they offer? What is their reputation – a simple check of Google reviews will tell you what your neighbors think about the company.
Why We Need to Visit Your Home for an Accurate Estimate
Again, any reputable HVAC contractor will require an in-home evaluation in order to give you an actual price for your new furnace. Your estimator should evaluate your existing system, the layout of the home and ductwork, and discuss with you any problem areas, and what you are looking for in the new heating system. He or she should discuss available financing and rebates with you and give you several options at different price points from which to choose.
If you’re ready to move forward with getting a customized in-home consultation, please reach out to the experts at UGI Heating, Cooling & Plumbing - the experts in Heating for over a century. We proudly serve customers in and around the areas of Harrisburg, PA, Lancaster, PA, Reading, PA, Chester & Montgomery Counties, and the Lehigh Valley, PA.