updated Jan. 2023
Perhaps you are replacing a furnace that recently died on you, or maybe you are designing and installing an all-new heating and cooling system for your house. In any case, you are probably wondering about the new furnace cost and what you should expect to spend on your new system. This post will try to get to the bottom of what a new furnace will run you in Santa Rosa—including both the appliance itself and the installation expenses.
Installing a New Furnace in Santa Rosa – Cost, Options, and More
Whether you’re replacing an old unit or setting up a whole new HVAC system, installing a furnace can be expensive, especially with all the extra factors you may need to consider. It can be a little daunting, especially if you’re not sure where to start. The cost of installing a new furnace can vary pretty considerably, starting around $3,000 and ranging all the way up to $9,000 or $10,000 for high-end appliances. Because the range is so wide, it can be tough to start saving money before figuring out the specifics of your situation. That’s why we put together this blog post covering common installation costs and going over a few options that you should consider before making a decision.
Calculating New Furnace Cost: Know the Variables
According to HomeAdvisor, the national average cost for a new furnace in 2018 is $4,242. However, HomeAdvisor also says that the “typical range” for furnace installation runs from $2,526 to $6,074, and that the “high end” sits around $9,000.
Obviously, the range here is substantial. Budgeting $9,000 for a furnace is an entirely different ballgame than earmarking $3,000. Why is there so much variation, and how can you cut through all the confusion to choose the right unit?
As you might expect, there are quite a few variables at play when it comes to choosing a new furnace. Understanding these variables and how they impact price will help you budget for your furnace more effectively.
- The energy source: Not all furnaces are the same. Gas furnaces are the most popular because they offer the highest level of efficiency, but electric furnaces are frequently used in new homes as well. Electric furnaces tend to be cheaper, both to purchase and to install. The website Fixr.com indicates that electric furnaces range from $500 to $2,000 for the appliance and run an average of $1,150 to install. In comparison, gas furnaces will usually cost between $2,300 and $3,500 and will run you an average of $1,500 in installation expenses.
- The infrastructure: Any central air heating method is going to require ductwork and vents to distribute air throughout your house. If you already have this infrastructure and are just trading out a dead appliance, that project is going to cost less than installing a ductwork system from scratch. Then again, if your ducts are old, it might be in your best interest to upgrade them along with your furnace. That way, you ensure maximum efficiency.
- The efficiency of the unit: Speaking of furnace efficiency, it’s an essential factor to consider in your shopping process. As you might expect, furnaces rated to higher levels of efficiency (say, 97 percent efficient versus 80 percent) are going to cost more. In most cases, the extra efficiency is worth the higher level of efficiency. An efficient furnace will pay for itself over time by ensuring that less of the energy you are paying for is going to waste. If you are on the borderline between two different furnace sizes, going full efficiency might also allow you to get away with choosing the smaller furnace—thereby saving money in the size category.
- The size of the furnace: This one goes without saying: bigger homes require more energy to heat. In turn, you will need a bigger furnace with a higher BTU capacity. You should consult with an HVAC professional to determine which furnace size is right for your home.
- The installation needs: Above, we talked about how replacing your ductwork—or installing a brand-new duct and vent network in your home—could add significant costs to your furnace installation. Ducts are not the only installation variable that might come into play as you upgrade your furnace. How long it takes to install the furnace, for instance, will affect the price. So, if you are installing a furnace in a basement that is extremely difficult for your HVAC contractors to access with a big, bulky new appliance, that factor could add to your final bill. It’s also worthwhile to do a general energy audit of your home, to identify issues that might affect your furnace’s performance. For instance, if you need to re-insulate certain parts of the home or re-caulk and re-seal windows to eliminate drafts, those steps are worth the (small) additional costs to make sure you are getting the most out of your new furnace.
Types of Furnaces
There are a ton of different kinds of furnaces, all of which burn different kinds of fuel. Naturally, some furnace types are more expensive than others, so you should decide which kind you want to buy before you start making a budget. Keep in mind that you’re not just considering the cost of the installation, but also the fuel efficiency and running cost of the unit after it’s been installed.
The two most common types of furnaces are gas-burning and electric furnaces. Natural gas furnaces are the most popular for areas that have the infrastructure for them. The natural gas that these furnaces use as fuel is fairly plentiful in North America, so the cost of running them is generally fairly low. However, it’s worth noting that the price of natural gas can be a little volatile depending on how much supply is available at the time, so you might see your bills suddenly rising or falling on a month-to-month basis. Natural gas also requires a certain amount of infrastructure since it can’t really be transported by truck or kept on-site, so rural homeowners might not be able to use this option. The other main downside of natural gas furnaces is that they’re a little more expensive than electric ones, typically costing between $4,500 and $6,000 to install, although you’ll make some of that money back as you save on your heating bills each month.
Electric furnaces are unique in that they don’t actually burn any fuel in order to create heat. Instead, electricity flows into a set of coils that emit heat – it’s essentially the same way a toaster works, but on a larger scale. These furnaces are usually cheaper to buy and install – only $2,000 to $4,000 – and they can last up to 30 years. However, they’re a lot less energy-efficient than their fuel-burning counterparts, which affects both the environment and your wallet. You’ll end up spending more every month to heat your home with electricity, which partially offsets the lower initial cost of installation. If you live in a rural area, an electric furnace could be an attractive alternative if natural gas pipelines don’t run all the way out to your house, although there are other options as well.
Oil furnaces are another popular choice in rural areas without the infrastructure to handle natural gas. These furnaces create heat by burning old-school heating oil, which is an extremely efficient and effective way to warm up your house quickly. Oil furnaces can heat your home much faster than electric or natural gas units, and they can easily handle larger spaces without too much effort. This makes them very popular in areas with long or harsh winters like Minnesota or Alaska. However, heating oil is much more expensive than natural gas, so running the furnace all year can cost you a pretty penny. On average, people who switch from heating oil to natural gas save about $1,000 a year on their heating bills, so the difference is actually pretty significant. You’ll also have to store the oil itself somewhere on your property, so you’ll likely have to install a holding tank, driving up the initial cost. Installing an oil furnace with the line and tank typically costs between $5,000 and $9,000 on average, although that price comes down to about $3,500 if you already have a tank and you just need a new furnace installed.
If you’re more of a traditionalist, a wood-burning furnace is always a solid option, especially in rural areas. Humanity has been using wood stoves to heat our homes for hundreds of thousands of years, and for good reason. While the old wood-burning furnaces we used before oil are fairly out of date these days, there are more modern versions that are much more efficient and effective. In the early part of the 20th century, Americans embraced oil as the best way to heat their homes, largely abandoning wood furnaces. However, when the oil crises of the 1970s drove petroleum prices sky-high, we started turning back to wood. That’s when the pellet stove was born – a more efficient, technologically advanced version of a traditional wood-burning furnace. As the name suggests, pellet stoves use small pellets of pressed wood to create heat, relying on a built-in thermostat to control the pellet hopper. When you add up the cost of the pellets, the electricity, and the maintenance required to keep the unit running smoothly, warming your home with a pellet stove generally costs just under $50 a month during the winter, making it one of the cheapest options out there. They’re also relatively inexpensive to install, costing between $3,000 and $6,000 on average. However, pellet stoves struggle to warm large houses by themselves, so they’re best used in more modest houses.
Finally, if you’d prefer to combine your furnace and air conditioner into a single unit, you can always have a heat pump installed. These appliances work essentially the same way as any other air conditioner, but they have the ability to reverse the flow of refrigerant to fill your house with warm air instead of cold. Heat pumps are fairly expensive, frequently costing $10,000 to purchase and install, but you have to consider the fact that they’re replacing both a furnace and an air conditioner at the same time. If you live in an area with hot summers and cold winters, a heat pump could be the most efficient way to keep your house comfortable year-round.
As we mentioned in the oil furnace paragraph above, a significant chunk of the installation cost can often be the cost of any necessary infrastructure that has to be added to your home. In that example, it was the cost of the storage tank and the line running underground from the tank to the furnace itself. While these installations can be pricey, they’re also generally one-time expenses and can be re-used when you buy a new furnace. Some heating systems use hot water to distribute heat through your home, which means they require a boiler. Geothermic heating systems also generally require a boiler since they use water to transfer heat from under the ground into your house, or vice versa in the summer. For each of these things, the cost of the additional installation is usually assumed to be part of the overall cost. However, there is one type of home infrastructure that is a requirement for almost any furnace or heating system: ductwork.
These days, the vast majority of HVAC systems are what we call central air systems, or sometimes forced air systems. In these systems, heat is generated by a single unit placed somewhere in your home, often the basement or a side closet where it’s out of the way. Allowing that heat to radiate out from the furnace itself into the entirety of your house would take forever, which is why all of these systems use ductwork to transfer it more quickly. Central air furnaces are equipped with a blower fan that pushes the heated air up into ducts that run through your whole home, typically in the ceiling or the walls. The blower fan pushes the hot air through the ducts and it escapes through vents that lead into individual rooms, allowing a single furnace to heat a whole house by itself. Without this ductwork, it won’t matter how powerful or efficient your furnace is – it won’t have a way to actually transfer the heat into your home.
Luckily, the vast majority of American houses already have ducts installed. These days, ductwork is considered to be an essential part of any new construction and has been for quite some time, so it’s pretty rare to run across a house that doesn’t already have a full set of ducts. However, if you live in an old home or have added some additions to a small one, you may not have the necessary ductwork to make your central air furnace work properly. In this scenario, you’d have to add the cost of installing ducts to the overall cost of the project, which can be significant. If your home has no ductwork at all, the contractor will have to go through every room in the house, open up the ceiling or walls, install the ducts, and close everything back up. If you have an unfinished home and you’re adding ducts as part of the construction, it’ll cost between $2,000 and $4,000 on average. However, if you have an existing home and you need to retrofit it with a brand new set of ducts, that can cost $12,000 or more. Depending on the size of your home, you may want to discuss less expensive alternatives with your contractor. Electric baseboard heaters, for example, don’t require ducts and just need to be wired into your home’s electrical system, while hydronic heaters only require a boiler and the installation of some pipes in your walls. Radiators also don’t require ducts to work, which is why they’re often seen in very old houses.
Even if you have ductwork already installed in your house, installing a new furnace could be a good opportunity to upgrade your existing ducts. This might seem like an unnecessary expense, but having the right ducts can actually make a pretty big difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of your furnace. Air can frequently get trapped in poorly planned corners or escape through small holes in the metal, making ducts the most common culprit when it comes to heat loss and inefficiency in an HVAC system. Luckily, replacing or upgrading ductwork is a lot less expensive than starting from scratch. If you need to fully replace an existing duct system, you can expect to pay between $3,000 and $6,000, depending on the size of your house and the cost of the ducts themselves. If your HVAC contractor recommends replacing your old ducts and your budget allows for it, you’re better off just biting the bullet and getting it done at the same time.
If you plan on using natural gas to heat your home, you’ll need some additional infrastructure: a gas line. Natural gas companies are responsible for installing and maintaining the main gas lines that run under the street and connect a neighborhood to a source of natural gas, and they also own and install the service lines that run from the main line to the gas meter on your property. However, you’re responsible for installing your own internal lines running from the meter to any appliances that require natural gas, including the furnace. Adding a new gas line typically costs between $500 and $800, so you’ll need to add that to the cost of installing a new natural gas furnace if you’re switching from oil or electric heat. The cost is mostly dependent on where the furnace is located, as well as how far away the meter is from your house. While gas lines do require some regular maintenance, they don’t generally need to be replaced when you buy a new furnace, so they can be considered more or less a one-time cost as long as you install the new furnace in the same room as the old one.
While this probably won’t affect the cost of the installation, the size of the furnace will have a significant effect on the cost of the unit itself. Note that when we talk about the size of an HVAC unit, we’re not actually discussing the physical dimensions. Rather, size in this context refers to the strength of the unit and how much heat it can produce. Having a properly sized furnace is absolutely vital, especially since you can’t just install an extra powerful one and call it a day. If the output of the unit isn’t properly matched to the size of your house, you could end up with higher power bills and more frequent repairs. A furnace that’s too weak for your home will have trouble keeping you warm enough and will run itself into the ground trying to keep up, while an overly powerful unit will overshoot the targeted temperature and wind up short-cycling, wearing down the parts inside. It’s important to make sure your furnace is sized for the exact dimensions and specific needs of your house, which is why you should have your HVAC contractor take a look at the space before you decide on anything.
Furnace output is measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs. One BTU represents the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit, but you can just think of it as a measurement of heat production. When you see a furnace that has an output of 8,000 BTUs, that means it creates that much heat in an hour. You also might see an AFUE rating advertised for each furnace, which stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. AFUE represents the energy efficiency of the unit, expressed as a percentage. For example, if your furnace has an output of 8,000 BTUs per hour and an AFUE of 90, that means you’re actually getting 7,200 BTUs worth of heat every hour. AFUE is important, so make sure you buy a furnace with a high rating if you can.
While your HVAC contractor will be able to give you a more accurate assessment of your home’s BTU requirements, you can get a general sense just by doing a little math on your own. The most important factor when sizing a furnace is the size of your house, so you’ll need to know the square footage. As a general rule, each square foot requires about 30 to 60 BTUs per hour from your furnace. That means an average 2,000-square-foot house will need a furnace with an output of 60,000 to 120,000 BTUs per hour. That’s a pretty wide range, but you can narrow it down by taking a look at a map of climate zones.
For heating purposes, the US is typically split into five different climates, each with its own BTU requirements. Zone 1, which includes Florida, Texas, the Gulf coast, and the area around the Mojave Desert, requires 30-35 BTUs per square foot. Zone 2 includes the rest of the southeastern states and most of California and requires 35-40 BTUs per square foot. Zone 3 covers a swath from Virginia to Kansas as well as southern Arizona and northeastern California and requires 40-45 BTUs. Zone 4 includes southern New England, most of the midwest, and the Pacific Northwest, and requires 45-50 BTUs. Finally, Zone 5 covers northern New England, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and most of Idaho, and requires 50-60 BTUs per square foot. Since Santa Rosa is located in Zone 2, a 2,000-square-foot house here will require 70,000 to 80,000 BTUs of heat from a furnace.
There are plenty of other small factors that impact the size of your furnace, including the size of the kitchen, the number of windows, and how many people live in your house, but you can use that math to get a general sense of what you’ll need. However, we do recommend working with your HVAC contractor to come up with a more specific number before you make a decision. Every house is different, after all, and you don’t want to end up with a furnace that can’t keep you warm because of some small quirk of your house’s layout.
Team up with the Right HVAC Experts to Get a Quote
Ultimately, you won’t know what your furnace and furnace installation are going to cost until you get a price quote from an HVAC professional. You can do some research on the internet to learn more about price ranges and figure out what you might need for your house. However, in the end, the quickest way to get an answer to your question about new furnace cost in Santa Rosa is to call an HVAC company in Santa Rosa and ask for a consultation and price quote. Your HVAC professional should be able to tell you what size of furnace you need, advise you on which type would be ideal for your home, and give you a ballpark estimate of what the installation will cost.
Contact Valley Comfort Heating & Air Today for More Information
It can be daunting to make a budget for a new furnace, especially if you’re not sure where to start. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you could be looking at $2,500 for a replacement electric furnace or $20,000 for a set of new ducts and a brand-new gas furnace installation, so the price range is pretty wide. Luckily, it doesn’t take a ton of research to get a general sense of what your home needs, and hopefully by now you have a better idea of where to start when you put a budget together. Any way you look at it, a new furnace is always going to be a pretty major expense, so making sure you have all the right information is important so you can start to save and budget accordingly.
Of course, you don’t have to figure out all this stuff alone, or even any of it if you don’t want to. One of the most important parts of installing a new furnace is making sure you find an HVAC contractor that you can trust to help you out every step of the way, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of that knowledge. If you live in Santa Rosa and you’re looking for someone to help you out while you’re planning a new furnace installation, Valley Comfort Heating & Air is here for you. You can stop by our Santa Rosa location, contact us online, or just give us a call at (707) 329-4120. We’ve been helping out Napa, Sonoma, and Marin Counties with their HVAC needs for years now, and we’re confident we can help you out too.
Valley Comfort conducts heating and furnace services in the following communities: Santa Rosa, Napa, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, St Helena, Calistoga and Windsor