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The Ultimate
Furnace Guide

With many different furnace types and trusted brands, selecting the right furnace can be a difficult decision. Here are a few important things to consider when selecting a new furnace for your home.

A guide to help you find the best furnace or heating system for your home.

Are you ready for winter? In Canada, we know the importance of making sure your home is ready for the extreme wind, snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures our winters can bring.
Staying comfortable during the cold months starts with having the right heating solution for your home that runs smoothly and efficiently all season long. Whether you are considering upgrading your heating equipment, need a repair, or are looking for ways to help save on energy this winter, this guide will help to answer your questions and provide you with the information needed to make smart and informed decisions about your heating equipment.
10 Questions This Guide Will Answer
  • What furnace options are available?
  • How does a furnace work?
  • Which solution make the most sense for my home?
  • Should I rent or buy my furnace?
  • Do I need to have my furnace inspected?
  • What do I do if my furnace stops working?
  • How can I save energy when heating my home?
  • What should I know before having my furnace installed?
  • What filter should I use with my furnace?
  • Why should I choose BCRC Heating ?

Different Heating Types

Buying a new heating system — where to start?
The process of finding the right heating equipment for your home can often feel like an overwhelming task. There are a variety of options to consider and, depending on the needs of your home, there are different features available to customize your equipment for optimal comfort.
To help you navigate through this complex buying or renting decision, below are some details about the various options and answers to common questions about home heating.
Select heating system type:

Furnaces

Heat pump

Boilers

Furnaces — what to know
To tailor a solution to your home, we recommend having a trained professional assess your needs and recommend what is best for you and your home. Learn more about booking an expert in-home consultation here.
Different Furnace Types
There are three main types of furnaces: single stage, 2-stage and modulating furnaces. All three types of furnaces are great options for heating your home. Finding the right one for you comes down to your home, budget, and desired level of efficiency.
SINGLE STAGE FURNACE
Single stage furnaces are the most basic and commonly installed type of furnaces. This type of furnace only has one d setting. When on, your furnace operates at the maximum flame setting—there is no middle ground between the system being on or off.
This type of furnace often comes at a lower up-front cost but is not the most efficient option.
TWO-STAGE FURNACE
Two-stage furnaces have two different settings when your furnace is on, a high setting as well medium intensity setting to deliver a wider range of operation.  This type of furnace can help to give you more temperature control in your home.
The furnaces are more expensive than the single stage options but are generally more energy efficient as there are different levels of heating available.
MODULATING FURNACE:
Modulating furnaces offer an advanced type of heating technology that delivers more even heating throughout your home. With a modulating furnace, the flame increases and decreases in finer increments to help maintain your home’s temperature. This reduces temperature fluctuations and helps meet your comfort needs more precisely.
Modulating furnaces are the most expensive to purchase upfront but will deliver consistent heating most efficiently.
ENERGY TIP
Before buying check the equipment’s Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE rating. The higher the AFUE is the more efficient your furnace is.
Technology found in today’s furnaces
New furnaces have a variety of advanced features to help reach optimal comfort and ensure maximum efficiency. Here are a few of the new technologies found in today’s furnaces:
CONDENSING TECHNOLOGY:
In a condensing furnace, the exhaust is moved through an additional (secondary) heat exchanger. More heat is extracted from the exhaust gasses and transferred safely through the home.  This additional heat recovery allows for increased fuel efficiency.
ELECTRONICALLY COMMUTATED MOTORS (ECM):
An Electronically Commuted Motor (ECM) is a motor technology in forced air heating applications that works to reduce the electrical consumption of the furnace motor. This technology can reduce your furnace’s electrical consumption by as much as 60% over a standard motor. These motors work with the furnace, adjusting speed to provide adequate air flow. Less electrical consumption results in a reduction of air noise in your home.
ELECTRONIC IGNITION:
Modern furnaces come with electronic ignition, which is a technological advancement replacing the pilot light system. With electronic ignition, fuel is only used when it is time to start the furnace. In older technology, a pilot light would use a small amount of fuel continuously, resulting in additional energy consumption.
INTELLIGENT DIGITAL ELECTRONICS AND WI-FI:
New furnaces have a digital integrated control board that control all the functions related to the heating/cooling operations in your home. It controls the gas valve, the igniter, the flame sensing circuit and blower fan. The control board also communicates with standard thermostats, smart learning thermostats, air conditioners and humidifiers.
ENERGY TIP
Ceiling fans aren’t just for the hot summer days! Switching your fans to spin clockwise in the winter help allows the warmed air to circulate throughout your home.
Different fueling options
Before you purchase a new furnace, consider which fuels are available in your area.  You should review advantages and disadvantages of your available energy sources.

Gas furnaces are some of the most commonly installed heating appliances in Canada. This type of furnace is a top choice for many homeowners because it provides a safe, reliable and comfortable solution to heating homes. In recent years gas furnaces have also become more efficient and advanced, using sophisticated technologies to connect with other home appliances like smart learning thermostats.

Benefits of a gas furnace:

High Efficiency

In Canada, most new gas furnaces have efficiency ratings from 92-98% Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), which let you feel confident that your new heating solution will not blow your monthly budget. The AFUE is a standard rating specified by the furnace manufacturer.

Inexpensive

Depending on the area you live in, gas is typically more cost effective than oil or propane.

Affordable Installation

Gas furnaces installations are usually very straightforward; a professional (and licensed) team should be able to install your unit at an affordable rate.

Wide Selection

There are many models of gas furnaces available, making it easy to find the right solution for your home and budget.

Smart home compatible

Modern units can be integrated with smart learning thermostats allowing you to control your home’s temperature from anywhere.

Things to consider when buying a gas furnace:

Availability

In rural areas, gas may not be available and there may be a more readily available or affordable fuel

Ductwork

Gas furnaces require ducts to circulate heat throughout your home

Maintenance

Gas furnaces need to be inspected regularly so it is important to schedule annual maintenance

Size

Gas furnaces are generally larger than a ductless split unit and will take up more space

Propane furnaces are a common choice for homeowners in rural areas or areas where other fuels are scarce, expensive or unavailable. To operate a propane furnace, a propane tank will be installed outside of your home and connected to your furnace. As the propane is used to fuel your furnace, the tank will need to be refilled by a local service company.

Benefits of a propane furnace:

Availability

Propane is readily available across the country, including remote areas

High Efficiency

Propane furnaces must meet a minimum efficiency standard of 92% but most new propane furnaces have AFUE ratings of 92% to 98.5% efficiency

Things to consider when buying a propane furnace:

Cost

It is often more expensive to operate than a gas model but is usually a more cost effective solution than an electric option

Refueling and storage

Propane tanks can only be filled by a licensed, trained and certified professional

Propane must be kept in government approved outdoor storage containers

Ductwork

Propane furnaces require ductwork to circulate heat throughout your home

Maintenance

Propane furnaces need to be inspected regularly by a trusted professional

 

If you live in a rural area where it is more difficult or expensive to get other fuel such as gas, you may want to consider an oil furnace. This type of fuel is readily available in most parts of Canada but has decreased in popularity over the years due to concerns about their operating cost, efficiency and emissions.

Benefits of an oil furnace:

Availability

Oil furnaces are often a good choice when other fueling options are scarce or unavailable

Most regions of Canada have access to oil

Smart home compatible

Temperature can be controlled remotely when you pair with a smart thermostat

Things to consider when buying an oil furnace:

Price

Oil furnaces are usually more expensive to operate than gas or propane furnaces

Storage

A tank needs to be installed outside of your home to hold the fuel

Efficiency

Oil furnaces tend to operate less efficiently than most modern gas and propane options

Ductwork

Ductwork is required to circulate heat throughout your home

Maintenance

Regular maintenance is required to keep the system operating efficiently

 

Electric furnaces heat air that moves through ductwork by a fan, but instead of gas, propane or oil fueled burners, these types of furnaces produce heat using electric heater elements controlled by circuit breakers.

The cost of operating an electric furnace is relatively high in most regions, limiting the popularity of the equipment.

Benefits of an electric furnace:

  • Contribute almost nothing to carbon emissions in their own operation, when using clean renewable electricity
  • Electricity can come from renewable sources or from using fossil fuels
  • A flue pipe or chimney is not needed making them easier to install
  • Viable options in areas where electricity is inexpensive

 

Things to consider when buying an electric furnace:

  • More expensive to operate than gas, propane or oil furnaces, in most regions
  • Be sure to compare heat pumps or, other electric options like baseboard heating, before investing in an electric furnace
How a gas furnace works
  1. Set your thermostat to a desired temperature, or program a temperature schedule.
  2. The thermostat sensor monitors the temperature, and when needed, calls on the furnace for heat.
  3. The furnace control board switches on the induced draft motor.
  4. A pressure switch senses a pressure change and the igniter is activated.
  5. The fuel is released to the burners.
  6. Burners ignite in sequence, warming the heat exchanger(s).
  7. A flame sensor allows fuel flow to continue as long as it is burning.
  8. The blower fan moves heat into the ducts.
  9. Air flow is monitored by limit switches.
  10. The thermostat signals that it is satisfied and the control board shuts off the gas.
Heat pumps and boilers

Depending on your home, budget and desired level of efficiency, a furnace may not always be the right option for heating your home. There are many great alternative options available.

An air source heat pump split is a compact, modern, refrigerant-based heating and cooling system. It consists of an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units, sometimes called heads. Splits were first popularized in Asia and Europe and are now becoming more common in North America.

The outdoor unit looks like a slim version of a conventional air conditioning unit. The indoor units are mounted in the ceiling, on the wall, or near the floor like baseboard heaters.

Benefits of an air source heat pump split:

  • Installation can be done by most well-trained service experts
  • Ductwork is not required, making it a great option for homeowners in condos or older homes
  • Provides all-season comfort as a highly efficientclean energy option
  • Often less expensive to operate than fossil fuel based or electrical appliances
  • Depending on the area that you live in, you could be eligible to apply for government incentives

Considerations of an air source heat pump split:

  • Up-front installation costs for heat pumps can be high
  • Older models may be limited in their heating capability in cold climates
  • Some models are unable to manage humidity as well as other options
  • A backup heat source is often required

Central air source heat pumps are similar to splits, but rely on ductwork to circulate both heating and cooling air in the home. The outdoor unit is called a condenser and the indoor unit is called an evaporator coil. It is an efficient, clean energy option that operates a lot like a traditional furnace.

Benefits of a Central air-source heat pump:

  • Typically very efficient and low cost to operate
  • Provide a clean energy solution for heating and cooling
  • Have similar capacity and distribution to a furnace

Considerations of a central air-source heat pump:

  • High up-front installation costs
  • Ductwork is unique and may require renovations
  • Backup heat source is often required

A boiler, or a hydronic heating system, provides heating by using a fuel source to heat a fluid (such as water or glycol) that is pumped through your hydronic heating system to various devices such as radiators or in-floor heating loops. Boiler heat does not require ductwork and is often be found in older homes.

Combi-units

A combi-unit is a heating source that can also provide hot water through your home.

Benefits of a Boiler:

  • Ductwork is not required for operation
  • Underfloor tubing can be laid under most flooring material to give you the luxury of heated floors
  • Combi-unit options can accomplish both your home heating and water heater needs
  • Operational noise is confined to the system and normally cannot be heard throughout the home

Considerations of a Boiler:

  • Often come at a higher upfront cost than a traditional furnace
  • Replacement parts can be expensive
  • Cannot be used to cool your home

Geothermal systems are top of the line heating and cooling equipment. These systems are also often referred to as ground source heat pumps. Geothermal heat pumps change the temperature in your home by transferring heat between the home and the ground.

How it works

Geothermal takes advantage of a fundamental of basic physics: during cool seasons the temperature underground is warmer that the temperature of the outside air; and during warmer months it is cooler than the outside air. Ground source temperature differentials are smaller than the air sourced differentials, allowing the heat pump to remain in a more efficient range. Geothermal systems move heat using liquid rather than air.

Benefits of a geothermal heat pump:

  • Clean energy option
  • One of the lowest operating costs of any heating and cooling system
  • Works well with hydronic systems and radiant systems
  • Has excellent cold or hot climate performance
  • Tends to last longer with less ongoing maintenance than other systems
  • Relatively quiet
  • You could be eligible to apply for government grants to assist with the cost of installation

Considerations of a geothermal heat pump:

  • Installation requires specialized skills and cannot be performed by every HVAC team
  • Tend to be the most expensive to install
  • May require a large land area
  • Not all soil types allow for installation
MONEY SAVER TIP Geothermal offers one of the lower operating costs of any HVAC.
Getting your new furnace

Beyond selecting the right furnace type for you and your family, there are several other things to consider to ensure your unit is the right choice for your home and budget. Here is some information about furnace financing options, installation and accessories.

Should I rent or buy my new furnace?

One of the most important decisions when upgrading your heating equipment is choosing whether to rent or buy your system. Before making the decision, you will want to determine the equipment you are having installed, the total cost of ownership and the cost and effort of maintenance.

Renting and buying are both viable options, and making the right decision really comes down to your needs, time and budget. To help you evaluate the two options, here are a few things to consider

Buying
  • Upfront cost of system
  • Potentially take advantage of government mail-in rebates and incentives
  • May add value to your property
  • You can take advantage of special promotions
  • Responsible for all maintenance and repairs
Renting
  • No upfront cost – you pay through affordable monthly payments
  • Potentially take advantage of government mail-in rebates and incentives
  • Covers maintenance and most repair costs
  • You can take advantage of special promotions
  • Annual service, filters and humidifier pads are included with your BCRC HEATING

ENERGY TIP When you are selecting a new furnace check to see if it is ENERGY STAR® rated to make sure you are getting an energy efficient option.

Should I buy my furnace and air conditioner together?

Your furnace plays and essential role in keeping your home warm as well as running your air conditioner in the summer. When it comes time to replace your furnace, consider upgrading your AC at the same time to help ensure you are getting the most out of your investment.

Benefits of replacing your air conditioner and furnace at the same time:

Energy Efficiency

Anytime you upgrade outdated equipment you could be investing in a more efficient system. Replacing both your furnace and air conditioner at the same time will help you maximize your energy savings.

Equipment performance

Since your furnace and air conditioner work together, replacing just one piece could prevent the newer piece of equipment from reaching its potential performance.

Potential savings

Furnace and air conditioners are often sold together, so if you decide to upgrade both there may be deals or discounts available. Having both pieces of equipment installed at the same time may also result in cheaper labour and installation costs.

ENERGY TIP A furnace that has been professionally sized by a licensed technician will run more efficiently than an incorrectly sized unit.A furnace that has been professionally sized by a licensed technician will run more efficiently than an incorrectly sized unit.
Installing a new furnace

The key to having a great heating system starts with a good installation. Here are a few of the frequently asked questions about having your furnace installed.

Can I install a furnace myself?

Even if you are a handy person, installing something as complex as a new home heating or cooling system is not a good idea. A professional technician brings experience and updated knowledge of code requirements, modern electronics and new technologies. Unless you are a certified HVAC technician, a self-installed furnace could lead to a poorly operating, unsafe system.

What makes a good furnace installer?

  • Good installers properly assess your needs: A reputable installer does not just take out the old furnace and put in a new, same size furnace without confirming if it is the right fit for you and your home. A professional HVAC team will take time with you and discuss your changing needs and preferences, advances in efficiencies, the size of your home, insulation and windows, sunlight exposure and other home systems.
  • Good installers recommend the right configuration, size and model for your situation: An incorrectly sized furnace may wear out more quickly and could be less efficient. Oversized furnaces turn off and on frequently, which may lead to higher operating cost and shorter equipment life. On the other hand, if the furnace is too small, it may not properly heat your home.
  • Good installers know what to ask about your comfort preferences: A professional team will know how to conduct a heat-loss calculation that results in accurate sizing of your system. They are also familiar with new technologies, leading brands, models and add-ons. Some brands or models offer features that are just right for your home and changing needs.

How long does a furnace installation take?

Depending on the system that you are having installed, a furnace installation can take anywhere from a half-day to a full day to be properly installed. This includes the installation, testing and clean up.

What should I expect during the installation?

Most furnace installations will be done by two professionally trained technicians. A good installation team will come on time and prepared with all the parts necessary to get the job done. The technicians should also be wearing booties over their shoes to protect your home, rolling out additional carpet and floor protection where needed.

The furnace installation itself can take a few hours and once it has been installed, the team will fire it up and conduct tests to make sure it is working properly and in sync with your other systems. Then they clean up completely, removing the old furnace, all parts and packaging.

How should I prepare for a furnace inspection?

Before the installation, you should ensure the furnace room and any other work areas are clean, clutter-free and well lit. For everyone’s safety, keep children and pets away from the work area.

MONEY SAVER TIP A comprehensive protection plan will include your regular maintenance and cover most unexpected repair costs.
Thermostats
Manual

Manual thermostats are economical and simple to control but the temperature in your home will only be adjusted when you manually change the settings of the thermostat.

Pros:

  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Temperature must be changed manually

Programmable

Programmable thermostats can help save on heating and cooling costs by adjusting the temperature inside of your home automatically throughout the day. These thermostats are very easy to operate and can be set to meet your changing needs – such for a work week vs. weekend. Advanced models of these types of thermostats can even switch between heating and cooling during seasons like spring and fall where you may need both.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Most models allow for multiple settings

Cons:

  • Not suitable for all systems
Smart Wi-Fi Thermostats

One of the newer trends in smart home technology are smart thermostats that you can control from your computer or smartphone. These thermostats learn, remember and adjust to how, when and where you use your system. They can help you to save on your energy consumption by adjusting the temperature only when it knows you need it.

Pros

  • Energy-efficient and convenient
  • Remote access to change temperature via your smartphone
  • Greater control of your heating and cooling could mean lower energy usage and money saved

Cons:

  • More expensive than traditional thermostats
  • Not every smart Wi-Fi thermostat works with every heating and cooling system

Communicating Wi-Fi Thermostats

Beyond being able to control your home’s heating from your smartphone, communicating Wi-Fi thermostats can also communicate directly with your furnace. This feature means your thermostat can receive warnings and error codes from your furnace and ensure everything stays running smoothly. They also allow the equipment to operate at its peak efficiency and to modulate its output.

Pros:

  • Energy efficient
  • Allows your equipment to operate at its peak efficiency
  • Remote access to change temperature via your smartphone

Cons:

  • More expensive than traditional thermostats