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What Should I Know About Furnace Installation?

By Amy Hunter
Updated May 16, 2024
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Furnace installation is not a typical do-it-yourself job. If you plan on installing a furnace on your own, it is important to understand the basic facts of how a furnace works. First, you must determine what type of furnace you want to install. There are many different options, including electric, natural gas, propane, and oil. The type of furnace you choose is normally determined by what fuel source is readily available in your area and the price of that fuel.

Once you have decided what type you plan to install, take some time to familiarize yourself with how a furnace works. Most modern appliances work in the same basic way: they draw room air into the ductwork through the air returns. Air returns are holes, covered with a protective register, that allow the room air to enter. They are typically larger than the heating registers that return the warmed air into the room.

Once the room air is in the ductwork, it travels down to the furnace. Inside, there is a metal box that contains the heating source. With an electric furnace, the box contains a heating element, while other heating sources use a pilot light and burners. The room air enters the box and is heated. It then travels out the other side of the box and through ductwork, back into the room.

Once you understand how a furnace works, it is easy to see there are several things you must do to properly install one. Not only must the furnace unit itself be properly installed, but, just as importantly, the ductwork must be in place. If you are replacing an old furnace, take the time to inspect the existing ductwork. The most high-efficiency furnace available will not properly heat a home if there are problems with how the air gets into or out of the room.

The ductwork should be firmly attached to each register, and all areas where it splits in different directions should be attached. Put your hand up to each area where there is a connection and make sure that you cannot feel any air escaping. If the home is older, the ducts may not be properly insulated. Metal ductwork should be insulated the entire length of the duct to prevent the heated air from cooling off on its return to the room.

If you are installing a furnace in a home that has not previously had a furnace, installing the ductwork and registers will probably be the most labor-intensive portion of the job. Plan the layout carefully, so that air returns and heat registers are not covered by furniture. If you use metal ductwork, insulate it carefully. You can also purchase flexible ductwork that comes insulated, which will work well in many situations.

The final component of furnace installation is the exhaust system. The type of exhaust your furnace needs will depend on the type of fuel used, as well as how the home is built and the location of the furnace. A proper exhaust system is extremely important, since the improper or incomplete removal of exhaust fumes can result in health problems or even death. Follow the specifications for your particular furnace exactly when installing the exhaust system.

Furnace installation can be straightforward, if you take the time to learn about the heating source you plan to use, and put as much time into the ductwork and exhaust as you do the actual furnace.

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Discussion Comments
By anon324800 — On Mar 12, 2013

I totally agree that installing a furnace is not a DIY job. It is really better to leave it up the professionals than do it yourself but if you are doing it to save money, there is an alternative. You can purchase your system from an AC wholesaler and save thousands on the equipment itself. Then you can just hire a local contractor to install it for you and save yourself a lot of hassle and money!

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