Table of contents
- Furnace Prices & Replacement Costs
- When Should You Replace Your Furnace?
- High-Efficiency Furnaces – The Basics
- Furnace Types – Single Stage vs. Dual Stage vs. Variable Speed vs. Modulating Furnaces
- Choosing a Fuel Type for your Furnace – Propane vs. Natural Gas vs. Oil
- ENERGY STAR Furnace Ratings Explained – Is it worth it?
- Other Important Considerations
- Summary of Key Points
Furnace Prices & Replacement Costs
The average cost of buying a new furnace, or replacing your furnace in Canada varies based on a variety of factors. Typically, a new residential gas furnace including installation, will cost between $2500 – $5000 on average.
This price is just a general estimate of course, and you’ll typically have to get a free in-home estimate done by a local HVAC contractor to get an actual price based on your home and your needs, and budget.
Things that can affect the price include:
- Where you live (prices can vary by region/city/province, as well as rural vs urban areas)
- Your home (the size and age of your home can impact the type and size of furnace needed; every home is different)
- How old your current system is (older systems may need more retrofitting work to meet modern building codes)
- Is it a conversion? If you’re converting from oil or electric to gas or propane, this will typically be a bit more complex and expensive
- The brand and model of furnace you buy
These are some of the main factors that will affect the price of a new high-efficiency furnace for Canadian homeowners.
When Should You Replace Your Furnace?
- Age of your furnace: If your furnace is over ten years old there’s a good chance that it is not a particularly energy-efficient model or that it may no longer be operating at its initial efficiency level. Many homeowners don’t have their furnaces cleaned and properly maintained every year, which leads to a gradual reduction in operating efficiency. You may be surprised to learn that your 15, 20 or 25-year old furnace is actually only operating at 50 – 60% AFUE, meaning nearly half your utility costs are completely wasted. Upgrading to a new furnace could mean a reduction in up to 40% in annual heating bills.
- Rising utility bills: newer furnaces, especially ENERGY STAR models (95% AFUE and above) waste less energy which means more money in your pocket. Greater efficiency also means less of an impact on the environment.
- Broken furnace and/or expensive repairs: your furnace has reached the end of its lifespan and repair costs are more costly than purchasing new. Especially when you factor in the potential savings on your utility bills.
How long does a furnace usually last?
Most furnaces should last at least 15 years, and can last as long as 20+ years with proper maintenance and a little bit of luck. That being said, you may wish to replace your furnace before that point if it starts to require frequent costly repairs and replacing it becomes a more cost-effective option.
Further reading: The TRUTH About Furnace (and A/C) Reliability
High-Efficiency Furnaces – The Basics
A furnace provides central heating throughout your home. There are several types of heating systems with one of the most common in Canada being a forced-air furnace. Forced-air furnaces work by blowing heated air through ducts that deliver the warm air to rooms throughout the house via air registers. This is a preferred method amongst consumers because it provides heat quickly and it has a quick recovery time when temperature is decreased overnight to save energy, so it doesn’t take long for the home to warm back up again in the morning.
The forced-air furnace when coupled with an efficient fan and motor can help the air conditioning unit send cold air throughout the house as well. Providing the consumer more value for their money.
Energy-efficient furnaces can also make your home more attractive for resale value, as more and more consumers are conscious of the environment and how their energy dollars are being spent. Replacing your furnace is a fairly significant investment, so knowing that it has been recently upgraded is always a bonus for a potential home buyer.
When choosing a furnace for your home it is important to educate yourself on the following factors: estimated annual energy consumption, operating cost and energy efficiency rating of the furnace.
Generally, in order to be considered high-efficiency, a furnace must have a minimum AFUE of at least 90%. However many experts and organizations (such as Energy Star) only consider a furnace with an AFUE rating of at least 95% to qualify. Some manufacturers market their top of the line models as ultra-high-efficiency, and these tend to have AFUE ratings of 97 – 98.8 %.
You might be wondering what an AFUE is. That’s an excellent question. AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency and it measures how efficiently a furnace uses fuel. This number lets you see how effectively your energy dollars are working for you to heat your home. An AFUE rating of 95 (or 95%) means that for every dollar spent on heating fuel, 95 cents of it is being converted to usable heat to warm your home.
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a measure of the heating output of your furnace. An improperly-sized furnace will either not heat sufficiently or will be overpowered, causing it to cycle on and off frequently. This wastes energy, causes your home’s temperature to fluctuate, and can even damage your furnace.
ECM stands for Electronically Commutated Motor and is essentially a motor which adjusts its speed to ensure precise and consistent airflow in an efficient way. Think of them kind of like cruise control on your car, in the way engine output will be precisely adjusted based on changing needs (going uphill, etc) in order to efficiently maintain a consistent driving speed.
ECM motors can significantly reduce your furnace’s electricity usage.
Furnace Types – Single Stage vs. Dual Stage vs. Variable Speed vs. Modulating Furnaces
These are the four major “types” of furnace, though a furnace can be both modulating and variable speed (as this refers to burner type and blower speed, respectively). Here’s a comparison of the pros and cons of each one.
See here to read our more in-depth breakdown and comparison of furnace types.
As it sounds, only one stage. With a single stage model, your furnace is either on or it is off, there’s no in between.
Pros of Single Stage Furnaces:
- somewhat lower initial price
Cons of Single Stage Furnaces:
- inefficient energy use
- inconsistent temperature delivery throughout your home
- inconsistent temperature control; frequent hot-cold fluctuations
- higher energy bills
A dual stage furnace has high and low settings. It starts off in the first stage which is low output. The low output stage meets your home’s heating needs 80% of the time. It switches to the second stage which is high output in response to extreme cold weather changes
Pros of Dual Stage or Two-Stage Furnace:
- improved temperature delivery throughout your home
- better temperature control
- efficient energy use
- adjusts to weather changes
- lower energy bills
Cons of Dual Stage or Two-Stage Furnace:
- somewhat higher initial price than single stage
This refers specifically to the blower, which monitors and adjusts incrementally, to ensure the highest comfort and most precise heat distribution throughout your home
Pros of Variable/Multi-Speed Furnaces:
- more efficient
- provides better airflow
- ECM: decreases furnace electrical energy consumption by 70% when used continuously
Cons of Variable/Multi-Speed Furnaces:
- somewhat higher initial price
This refers specifically to the burner, which adjusts incrementally in order to respond to the heat demands of the home
Pros of Modulating Furnaces:
- improved temperature delivery throughout your home
- better temperature control
- efficient energy use
- equipped with variable speed blower
Cons of Modulating Furnaces:
- initial cost of purchase is usually more expensive
Advanced Furnace Features
The following features and technology are often featured on top of the line ENERGY STAR furnaces. There is certainly nothing wrong with buying a heating system which doesn’t have any of these features, but for those looking for peak performance and efficiency, look for the following. However furnaces with these features rarely come cheap!
- ECM Motors
- Dual heat exchangers: when two heat exchangers are used the furnace is able to draw more heat from the burned gas, which makes them more energy efficient
- Ignition systems: pilot lights are becoming a thing of the past, in favour of an electronic ignition system which increases a furnace’s efficiency rating.
- Programmable & “smart” thermostats: Not a furnace feature per se, more of an addon. But programmable thermostats are easy to use and will save you money. New ‘smart’ thermostats can learn from your personal heating preferences and adjust your home’s heating automatically, like lowering the temperature during the day when you’re at work. Turning your thermostat down just one degree each night results in a 2% reduction (PDF) on your annual heating bill.
Choosing a Fuel Type for your Furnace – Propane vs. Natural Gas vs. Oil
When choosing a fuel type for your furnace the two major options for Canadians are: natural gas or propane. The biggest factor that must be taken into consideration when deciding between a natural gas or propane furnace is whether you live in an urban or rural area. Your location will dictate which energy source is more appropriate for your furnace. Most urban city centers are equipped with natural gas pipelines making it the obvious choice.
In rural settings natural gas pipeline infrastructure is not as readily available or may not be installed, which makes propane the most cost-effective energy source over oil and electrical heating. Propane is somewhat less efficient than natural gas but is still a good alternative. One downside is that propane heating requires the installation of a large tank on your property, which is refilled periodically.
Oil is becoming increasingly rare as a heating fuel for homes. Oil furnaces are not energy efficient, with some having an AFUE of only 60% (PDF). That means for every energy dollar only 60 cents is going to heat your home, and the rest is being wasted, making it significantly costlier to heat your home. Not only is money being wasted and energy lost, an oil furnace puts more strain on the environment by burning more fossil fuel, which increases your eco-footprint. This is why so many Canadians are choosing to make the switch away from oil heat.
And with the exception of people living in Quebec who get relatively cheap electricity from Hydro Quebec, homeowners with electric heating in Ontario and elsewhere are increasingly switching to natural gas or propane due to high heating costs.
For more information on conversions from oil or electric to propane or gas, see here.
ENERGY STAR Furnace Ratings Explained – Is it worth it?
When you see a home heating system with an ENERGY STAR certification in Canada you can rest assured that you are in the presence of an efficient furnace, and high-efficiency means the biggest bang for your energy dollar.
To qualify as an ENERGY STAR home heating system, it has to have 95% AFUE or more, (that means 95 cents of every energy dollar are going to actually heating your home) and fan efficiency of 2% or less. Note, ‘fan efficiency’ refers to the ratio of electrical energy consumption to the total energy consumption of the furnace during heating operation.
ENERGY STAR is administered and promoted in Canada by Natural Resources Canada and registered in Canada with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. ENERGY STAR home heating systems allow you to save money, while decreasing environmental emissions which reduces your ecological-footprint. That’s a win for your pocket book and the environment.
Other Important Considerations
Warranty information is brand specific so the amount of coverage will depend on which model and company you purchase your furnace from. These typically range from 5 year limited parts warranties to 10-year, 20-year or lifetime ‘comprehensive’ warranties.
Warranties that you are entitled to include: manufacturer warranty which includes parts warranty, heat exchanger warranty). Be sure to read the fine print carefully and ensure that you register your warranties so that they are on file. Some warranties require annual maintenance and cleaning be done a certified technician.
You may also get additional labour warranty coverage on the installation through your licensed HVAC technician who completes your new home furnace installation, typically for the period of one year.
Rebates and Incentives
Different provinces have different rebates and incentives available and these are subject to change. If you are a resident of the province of Ontario, you may be eligible for one of the following rebates and incentives, specific to ENERGY STAR propane or natural gas furnaces:
- Ontario Power Authority rebate of $250 for upgrading to an Energy Star model furnace
- Enbridge Gas Distribution: Enbridge provides $2000 toward home energy audit and upgrade costs
- Hydro One: Hydro One offers $250 off new high-efficiency furnace
For more information on current heating & cooling rebates and incentives in Canada, please see here.
Humidifiers and Air Filtration
These add-ons can help filter your home’s air and maintain optimal humidity, making air healthier and easier to breathe. Air filtration systems, especially those with HEPA filters, reduce allergens and pollutants and makes breathing easier, while also reducing the chance of mould, asthma flair ups, and other skin and respiratory issues. It is important to change your air filter periodically in order to maximize the efficiency of your furnace.
|Outside Temperature||Recommended House Humidity|
|-20°F to -10°F||20%|
|-10°F to 0°F||25%|
|0°F to +10°F||35%|
|+10°F and above||40%|
Zoned heating allows you to control the temp of individual rooms, which is a fairly expensive upgrade. It can be beneficial especially with large homes, as it allows you to heat the rooms you use the most, while keeping the others at a lower temperature when you’re not using them.
Most houses are non-zoned = 1 thermostat that controls the heating of the whole house (natural gas furnace or propane furnace). Though individual vents may have manual switches to close air flow for a particular room.
There is a common myth out there that square footage is the only factor required to determine the size of a residential home heating system. Many factors need to be taken into account when determining the appropriate furnace size to heat your home.
Other factors that may be considered during a home assessment include:
- type of insulation used
- amount of insulation
- windows: size, type, amount, direction they face
- house material – vinyl siding vs. brick
- air leakage
A professional will assess all of these factors in order to provide you with a home heating system that meets your home’s needs. You can request a free quote from local professionals with the form above.
Summary of Key Points
- The minimum efficiency furnace you can purchase in Canada is 92% AFUE
- Top high-efficiency furnaces on the market have AFUE of 95-98%
- BTU needs to be considered when choosing the right size of heating system. Newer furnaces are more efficient so you generally won’t need as high a BTU rating as your old model. Your local expert will help you size your unit correctly.
- In some situations, a heat/loss calculation might need to be conducted by a professional to determine the right furnace for your home
- A high-efficiency furnace uses less energy and lowers your utility bills, helping offset the cost of upgrading
- Lowering the temperature on your programmable thermostat, even by 1 degree Celsius will result in a decrease on your home energy bill.
The only thing left to do is request a free quote from trusted local heating & cooling companies in your area!