The most common type of home heating system is a forced-air heating and cooling system. This type of heater involves a furnace, which is commonly powered by natural gas, forcing air through a series of ducts that distribute the hot air through different rooms in a house. Furnaces can run on other types of fuel, including electricity, propane and oil. This type of heating system is quite popular because it doubles as a path for air conditioning in the summer.
Geothermal heating tends to be the most efficient way to heat a house when compared to traditional HVAC systems, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Geothermal heat pumps (also called ground-source heat pumps) transfer energy to and from the ground to supply heat, cool air and hot water.
Note that one of the most important ways to boost efficiency, save electricity and lower your heating bills is to make sure your house is weather-tight and well-insulated.
When your furnace isn’t regularly serviced it can operate less efficiently. This increases your energy bills and also prevents your furnace from keeping your home as warm as you like. Keep your furnace properly maintained with regular service. The national average furnace service cost is between $60 and $80. Companies may offer tuneup specials that cover all the necessary testing, tightening, measuring and cleaning to keep your equipment running at top efficiency. If you have a newer system, furnace service costs may be covered by your warranty. Outside of warranty, a basic tuneup might start at $58 and a more advanced maintenance cleaning could be over $120. Here are some signs your furnace may need service:
- The furnace has stopped functioning entirely.
- The temperature cannot be regulated.
- Rooms in the home are either too hot or too cold.
- The heated air coming from the furnace smells like gas.
- The thermostat isn’t working.
- Strange noises are coming from the furnace.
The cost to replace your gas furnace will vary based on the type and size of furnace you select, labor and installation costs, and any repairs your HVAC system may need. Nationally, average HVAC prices for a heating specialist range between $1,800 and $2,500. It’s important to select the right size gas furnace for your heating needs. A furnace that’s too small won’t heat your house properly, while a furnace that’s too large will run inefficiently, cycling on and off and likely breaking down sooner. HVAC specialists calculate your exact heat needs by measuring your home and incorporating variables such as the regional climate and your home’s level of insulation. Retail pricing for gas furnaces can range from $650 up to $3,000 and more. The higher the AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating of the furnace, the more efficient it is at turning fuel into heat and the lower your carbon footprint and utility bill will be. HVAC installation costs are often based on an hourly rate and can range from under $50 to over $100 per hour, depending on the company and the furnace being installed. Higher-end furnaces cost more to install because they require added labor and expertise. For a typical installation, it might take two HVAC installation pros one day or less to remove your old furnace and replace it with a new one.
To keep your furnace in good working order it’s important to have it regularly cleaned. The national average furnace cleaning cost ranges from $60 to $80, though prices can vary greatly based on where you live in the country and what your furnace maintenance includes. An HVAC company may have different rates for different levels of furnace maintenance. For example,one company may offer general furnace maintenance for $79 and advanced maintenance for $138. Another company may offer a 38-point maintenance check for $89 and a 64-point maintenance check for $178. According to Energy.gov, a standard furnace cleaning and maintenance visit can include:
- Checking the vent connection pipe and chimney
- Checking the physical integrity of the heat exchanger
- Adjusting the controls to provide optimum air temperatures
- Checking the combustion chamber for cracks
- Testing for carbon monoxide (CO)
- Adjusting the blower control and supply-air temperature
- Cleaning and oiling the blower
- Removing soot and corrosion from the furnace
- Checking the fuel input and flame characteristics
- Sealing the connections between the furnace and the main ducts
If your furnace needs to be repaired, you’ll want to find a qualified heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) repair technician. Each state has its own licensing requirements; some require all HVAC technicians to have an HVAC license, while others only require someone operating an HVAC service and installation company with employees to hold a contractor’s license. For example, in Alabama, the Alabama Board of Heating Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors regulates licensing, while in Kansas there is no state regulatory body and HVAC licensing can vary by region. For simple furnace repairs like changing out a filter, a trusted handyman can probably handle the job, but a trained professional should be hired for tasks like replacing a gas valve, installing a new inducer fan motor or other critical furnace repair jobs that involve dealing with gas leaks or other dangerous conditions. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.
Many experts say a heating system should be serviced at least once per year. Specifically, the best course of action is to service a heating system in the fall before colder weather arrives. And, you should get your air conditioner serviced in the spring before the weather heats up.
It’s especially important to hire a professional to perform repairs whenever you hear strange sounds, such as clanking, knocking or banging.
A central heating system consists of a boiler, heat pump or furnace. The furnace contains several parts, including burners that deliver and burn fuel, a blower, heat exchangers, a blower and a flue. The furnace will push air through the heat exchanger. Then, it will pump the warmed air through your air ducts to distribute heat throughout your home.
In the summertime, a central heating system can also provide air conditioning to cool and dehumidify your home.
Dual fuel systems combine two types of heat fuels — typically gas and electric, the latter in the form of a heat pump — to boost heating performance and efficiency. These systems work with your furnace to deliver both hot and cold air. A major advantage lies in the power of a heat pump, which provides cool air in the summer and heat in the winter.
The better care you take of your heating system, the longer it will last. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors estimates the following lifespans for heating systems:
- Heat exchanger: 10-15 years
- Heat pump: 10-15 years
- Furnace: 15-25 years
- Electric radiant heater: 40 years
If your heating system is broken, hire a contractor or a repair service to take a look at it. They can help you determine if it makes financial sense to replace your system or spend money on repairs. The good news is that replacing your old furnace will give you the opportunity to take advantage of newer, more efficient furnaces that can save you money on heating bills from the first cycle.