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Even though you may only need to run a home heater system regularly for a few months of the year, it is still an incredibly important home appliance. Overnight lows in both Napa and Sonoma counties can be brisk practically year-round, and the ability to warm up your home after coming in from a windy, chilly evening is not one to take for granted. If you’re in the market for a replacement heater, or you’re in the process of moving into a new home that requires some upgrades, one of the first questions you’ll face is deceptively simple: where should you locate it within your space?

Finding the right space on your property for a heater is essential not only for operational efficiency but also for safety, particularly if you intend to install a gas furnace. When there isn’t a space in the home that offers an immediate candidate, such as a utility closet, you’ll need to consider other options. For electric heaters, this is often a simpler choice as you may be able to locate the primary unit outdoors. In other cases, you’ll need to dig deeper to find the right answer. For gas-fired furnaces, one of the most critical factors in determining placement is the amount of usable air available for its operation. This is where you should begin.

Determining the usable space available to you

First, determine the location of any functioning gas piping in your home. Common sites include attics, basements, crawlspaces, and garages. This will typically play the largest role in determining where to place your furnace. Keep in mind that if you choose to locate the unit elsewhere, you’ll need to ensure the home’s gas supply can reach its location. Access to fresh air for use in the combustion cycle is the next most important factor.

If you choose to place the furnace in an “unconfined” location, such as a garage, an adequate air supply is typically not a problem. In tighter spaces such as attics and closets, however, air supply can become a concern. Many furnaces will include information on the number of cubic feet of air required for conventional combustion; this number is based on the Btu rating of the furnace. To do a quick calculation, measure the space you want to place the heater. An area that is 12 square feet with a height of five feet would have a little more than 700 cubic feet of air for a furnace to use. As you can see, small spaces provide less wiggle room and may require an outdoor intake.

Where shouldn’t you put a heater?

With air volume restrictions in mind, there are some places where you should avoid placing a furnace if possible. For example, never house a furnace in a laundry room that also contains an electric dryer. These devices will compete for the same air supply, potentially leaving your heater struggling to work correctly. Not only can this increase the risk of carbon monoxide production, but starving the furnace of air places a great deal of strain on the system. Ultimately, this can result in substandard operation and eventually equipment failures. This is a big factor in why the proper placement of your heater matters so much.

Matching a home heater system to your property

For the most part, this guidance assumes that you’ll install a gas furnace in your home. That’s certainly not the only option, though, particularly if you have a smaller space or less demanding heating requirements. Electric heaters can take many different forms, and heat pumps packaged in with air conditioners are also an option. These can safely be installed in smaller, confined spaces, or in the case of heat pumps, almost entirely outdoors. Since electric heaters utilize air blown over a resistance coil with no combustion taking place, the home’s interior air is all that’s necessary.

With that said, those shopping for a gas-powered home heater system must take care in choosing a furnace of the right size. Too large and the unit will short cycle, driving up energy costs and lowering efficiency. Too small and the system will overwork itself without outputting an appropriate amount of heat. It’s a delicate balancing act!

The benefits of professional assistance

With so many factors to harmonize when all you want to do is add a new home heater system to your property, figuring out the right place to put a furnace can be a frustrating endeavor. Luckily, professional heating installers can take the stress out of the situation altogether. By taking a quick look through your home, a pro can quickly identify the locations that are not only most suitable for the furnace but which will also facilitate the best flow of warm air through the home. If you aren’t sure where to begin, or if you think you know where you’d like to place a new installation, it might be time to reach out to an experienced team of installers in your area.