Some gas furnaces aren’t worth the money you pay for them. Why?
They’re cheaply made, of course, and probably won’t last 12+ years, even with consistent maintenance and likely repairs.
All Brands Make Cheap Furnaces
What? A cheap Lennox furnace? Definitely. Most Lennox furnaces have a 5-year parts warranty.
That’s the warranty length manufacturers slap on furnaces that they don’t expect to run very long without needing repairs – repairs they don’t want to pay for!
A cheap Trane furnace? Yes. But the company motto is, “It’s hard to stop a Trane!” Well, Trane makes a few cheap furnaces.
There are some exceptions to the rule. Carrier and identical-brand Bryant are an example. All the gas furnaces made by these brands are backed by a 10-year general parts warranty. Even the entry-level models are at least average in quality. Rheem/Ruud, Armstrong Air and the ICP brands (Heil, etc.) are other examples of brands that choose not to make cheap, entry-level furnaces.
Why You Should Avoid Cheap Furnaces
Here are 6 reasons to avoid inferior furnaces.
1. They use cheap components, and will likely require costly repairs in the first 10 years.
2. Budget furnaces must be cleaned and tuned every few years, or they will run inefficiently and be more likely to break down. Even good furnaces should be maintained, but it is absolutely essential for inferior models.
3. They have short warranties. The manufacturer knows how good (bad?) they are, so will only back them with a 5-year general parts warranty.
4. Entry-level furnaces are bad at indoor climate control. They all have single-stage burners and single-speed fans. Here’s how that produces poor heating comfort.
- The fan comes on full speed before the furnace is fully hot. If you’re anywhere near a heat grate, you’ll feel cool air blowing your way. That’s not what you want on a cold January morning.
- The burner fires 100%, its only option. It will still be roaring hot when the thermostat setting is reached and the burner shuts off. All that hot air still in the furnace has to be blown out, so it is common that the temperature in your home gets pushed a degree or two beyond the thermostat setting. In short, cheap furnaces create temperature fluctuations. This is especially true when they are coupled with cheap thermostats. Swings of 2-3 degrees are common.
- The blower fan is still going full speed, so you’ll get cool air from the grates at the end of the cycle too.
- Finally, a full-speed fan is loud.
5. Discerning home buyers will spot a cheap furnace and realize they are going to have to sink another $3,500 to $7,500 into a new one in the near future. That can be a deal breaker for house shoppers looking at homes at the top of their budget range.
6. For conscientious homeowners, putting a “junk” furnace in a home they are about to sell is an ethical dilemma. Cheap flooring, cheap lighting and cheap countertops are all easily picked up by home shoppers, so there’s no “hiding” them. But a cheap furnace with a Rheem or Heil nameplate on it won’t be recognized as inferior by many house buyers. Is that fair? To be sure, “Buyer beware.” But the point is worth considering.
Furnace Brand Quality Tiers
All the large furnace manufacturers make three grades of furnace. We call it Basic, Better and Best.
You’re probably familiar with this approach because it is done in almost every product category from carpet to cars to cardigan sweaters.
It’s the “Basic” tier that we recommend avoiding.
We’ll get to them shortly, but here are the three quality tiers, starting with Best, with a description of what you get.
Best Gas Furnaces
Top-quality parts go into these furnaces. Here’s what they deliver:
Longevity: 18-25 years. Yes, regular maintenance is important for maximum durability. And you’ll probably have to make $500 to $1,000 in repairs over its life. But the lifetime value of a premium furnace is excellent.
Performance: Your options are two-stage and variable capacity gas furnaces. Two-stage models run at 65% of capacity most of the time, only kicking into full-capacity when you boost the heat setting on the thermostat or outside temps drop rapidly and the house cools off.
Modulating, or variable capacity, gas furnaces run anywhere from 40% to 100% of capacity (the range is slightly different for a few brands). They only run as hot as needed to perfectly balance indoor temperatures. Climate control is premium.
Both types have variable-speed fans that only run as fast as needed to clear the heat properly. This means they are quieter. And you don’t get chilly blasts at the start and end of a cycle.
FWIW, we recommend two-stage furnaces. Our research shows that they are the best value for the money because they cost less, still do a great job of climate control, and if a repair is needed, it might cost less than repairs to a variable capacity furnace.
Warranties: Lifetime heat exchanger warranty and a parts warranty of 10 or 12 years depending on brand. Most are 10 years.
Many have furnace replacement warranties that provide an entirely new furnace if the heat exchanger fails. The replacement warranties range from 5 years to Lifetime. Ten years is most common, with Heil, Day & Night and Goodman as a few examples. Rheem and Ruud offer a Lifetime furnace replacement warranty on their top models.
Cost: $4,000 to $8,000 installed, depending on the furnace size, brand and installation factors.
Examples: Carrier Infinity, Bryant Evolution, Trane S9, American Standard Platinum, Goodman/Daikin GMVM, Day & Night Ion / Heil Ion, Rheem Prestige and Ruud Ultra, Maytag M1200 and York Affinity.
For more top brands and complete information about these furnaces, see our Best Furnace Brands Reviews.
Better Gas Furnaces
These are mid-grade furnaces.
If you want an affordable furnace that will still give you good durability, this is the tier to consider.
Longevity: 17-22 years with maintenance. You might also spend $750 to $1,200 in repairs over that time, especially in the second decade.
Performance: Most of these are two-stage furnaces with variable speed or multi-speed fans for indoor comfort. A few are single-stage models with multispeed fans.
Warranties: Most have Lifetime heat exchanger warranties and 10-year parts warranties. Some of the ICP brands (Heil, Day & Night, Tempstar and others) give 5-year furnace replacement warranties on the heat exchanger.
Cost: $2,800 - $6,500 based on size, brand and installation factors.
Examples: Carrier Performance, Bryant Preferred, Rheem Classic Plus, Heil QuietComfort Deluxe and American Standard Gold and others. All top brands make mid-level furnace lines.
Basic Gas Furnaces
Call them cheap, entry-level, builder grade, etc.
These are the ones to avoid if you want a furnace with good performance and durability.
Longevity: 10-18 years with consistent maintenance. You’ll likely have to start spending money on them for repairs
Performance: All are single-stage furnaces. Most have single-speed fans, though a few have multispeed fans that offer a slight increase in climate comfort.
Warranties: 5-year parts warranties are the most common. Heat exchanger warranties are typically 20 years, not Lifetime.
Cost: $1,800 to $4,750 depending on size, brand and installation factors.
Examples: Since these entry-level brands and series are the subject of this article, here is a more complete list.
Worst Furnace Brands to Avoid
In some cases, it isn’t the entire brand – but certain models.
Aire-Flo: This is a Lennox brand of cheap furnaces. We don’t recommend them.
American Standard: Avoid the 80% furnaces that don’t have a Platinum, Gold or Silver designation. There’s a few of them, and they’re not worth considering.
Ducane: This is a Lennox brand with decent quality and warranties. However, we have concerns about Ducane/Lennox parts availability and cost. For this reason, we recommend that you avoid Ducane furnaces.
Lennox: Avoid Lennox Elite and Merit furnaces. The Elite and Merit Series come with just a 5-year parts warranty. Sure, you can pay for an extended warranty that gives you 10 years – but extended warranties are a bad deal for the consumer. Good furnaces are backed by a 10-year parts warranty you don’t have to pay extra to get.
Trane: All furnaces have a 10-year parts warranty. The heat exchanger warranty is 20 years or Lifetime depending on the model. However, we’re not sold on the XR and XT furnaces and recommend you consider a better Trane or different brand furnace.
All the Rest
Not all brands make cheap stuff. Even if, like Carrier, they make three tiers, the lowest tier is pretty good. It couldn’t be called “junk.”
Just so you don’t think we overlooked any brands, here are the rest with a summary of their quality and warranties.
AirEase and Armstrong Air: All furnaces have a warranty of 10 years on parts and Lifetime on heat exchangers. There are no furnaces to definitely avoid.
Amana, Daikin and Goodman: These are mostly identical furnace brands and have some of the best warranties in the industry. All furnaces have 10-year parts and Lifetime heat exchanger warranties. These are solid brands – no cheap furnaces.
American Standard: Platinum, Gold and Silver – No problem. 10-year parts and Lifetime or 20-year heat exchanger warranties.
Arcoaire, Comfortmaker, Day & Night, Heil, Keeprite and Tempstar: These are identical International Comfort Products brands. Each has an entry-level series with a 20-year heat exchanger and 10-year parts warranty. The quality is average, not cheap. These are decent “budget” furnaces for homes in mild climates where a workhorse furnace isn’t necessary.
Bryant & Carrier: All Bryant models are built with quality components and backed by good warranties.
Lennox: The Dave Lennox Signature Collection furnaces have a solid warranty. You might consider avoiding them for other reasons discussed in our Best Furnace Brands Guide. We ranked Lennox at the bottom of all major brands.
Maytag, Broan, Frigidaire and Nu-Tone: These identical Nortek Global brands have very solid warranties throughout the product lineups. There are no cheap models here.
Payne: This is a United Technologies Corporation brand. UTC is the parent company of Carrier/Bryant. Payne furnaces have many of the same components as Carrier models. They are backed by 10-year parts and 20-year heat exchanger warranties. Not bad.
Rheem and Ruud: Solid quality and warranties throughout the product lineup.
York, Luxaire, Coleman: Lifetime heat exchanger and 10-year parts warranties cover all models.
What About Furnaces Bought Online?
That’s an important question to consider.
There are a bunch of places online to buy furnaces.
Most of what you find are off-brands not worth considering.
Some online brands are budget brands owned by major furnace manufacturers. For example:
- Ingersoll Rand, parent company of American Standard and Trane, makes Ameristar furnaces.
- Goodman makes Direct Comfort, low-cost cheap furnaces we don’t recommend.
- International Comfort Products (Heil, etc., and a UTC company) makes AirQuest, which are actually pretty good and have a good warranty.
- EcoTemp is a random brand that makes cheap furnaces with OK warranties.
- MrCool is best known for making ductless mini split heat pumps. It also makes a line of cheap gas furnaces.
Here’s the catch!
All furnace manufacturers void the warranty of a furnace bought online. Here is actual wording from warranties:
ICP / AirQuest: “This warranty does not cover…any product purchased on the internet.”
Goodman / Direct Comfort: “This warranty does not apply to: Units that are ordered over the Internet…”
Ingersoll-Rand / Ameristar: “Exclusions… Products purchased direct including, but not limited to, Internet or auction purchases and purchases made on an uninstalled basis.”
You get the point.
We don’t blame them for voiding warranties on internet sales. The manufacturers have no control over who installs them or the quality of the installation.
What we think is shady is selling these furnaces online in the first place. If you’re a homeowner with your “eyes wide open,” and you are willing to get a cheap furnace with no warranty, then that’s your call.
But our guess is that mfurnace replacementany unsuspecting customers find out the hard way that the furnace has no warranty. They either buy it and:
- Can’t find any certified installer to install it – most won’t touch a furnace bought online.
- They install it DIY, it breaks down because it is cheap or because they didn’t know what they were doing. They make a warranty claim, and it is immediately denied.
It isn’t worth it!
Avoid Cheap Installation Too!
There is something almost as bad as a cheap furnace brand – and that’s cheap installation.
The most important day of a furnace’s life is the day it is installed. When properly installed, it has the chance to run as efficiently and as durably as possible.
Fail in the installation process, and the furnace will run below its rated efficiency and/or will break down before it should. There’s an industry-wide understanding that furnace installation is just as important as brand.
Here’s how you can avoid cheap installation:
1. Read the PickHVAC Gas Furnace Buying Guide and many Brand Reviews (Carrier, Trane, Goodman, Lennox, Heil, Rheem/Ruud and all other major brands) to learn more about buying a furnace and the brands you’re considering.
2. Get installation estimates from at least 3 local furnace dealers.You can also use our Free Local Quotes to get 3 estimates from qualified and pre-screened furnace contractors who service your area.
3. Ask if the installers are factory trained or at least certified by NATE – the North American Technician Excellence program.
4. Check online ratings and reviews for the furnace company you’re considering.
5. Reject estimates that are much cheaper than the others. Value is good. Cheap estimates usually mean the installers are new and therefore inexperienced, they plan to cut corners or they have a bad reputation and can’t get much work. These are all things to avoid, avoid, avoid.
6. Choose an experienced installer with a good reputation that you believe, based on the estimates, is giving you a fair price.
These tips will help ensure you have a quality furnace installed without overpaying for it. Consider the performance and efficiency that is right for your climate and budget. Our Furnace Buying Guide includes information that will help you decide. It’s a great place to further your research into the right furnace for your purpose.
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