Arizona is warm and sunny; it basks in typical 86-degree average annual highs and sees only 36 days a year with precipitation, according to U.S. Climate Data. If our temperatures are so mild, you may wonder, why do you need a furnace at all? Well, most Arizonans enjoy living and working in homes and businesses with indoor temperatures of at least 68 degrees, and that is many degrees warmer than the average low temperatures for seven out of the 12 months.

Arizona’s special position in the federal Energy Star program puts our fine state in the “southern tier” of U.S. states regarding the energy efficiency of our heating equipment. A new gas furnace is an ideal solution to keeping warm and cozy on even the coldest desert nights. Selecting and buying one will be easy if you use this furnace buying guide, custom-written for Arizona.

Bottom Line, Please!

Howard Air - Arizona's Gas Furnace Buyer's Guide - Shopping by Price
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Many Arizona residents will shop almost exclusively by price. You wonder, exactly what will a new gas furnace cost? We can understand that, so let’s clear up your first concern: price. A gas furnace is part of an overall HVAC system, which also includes:

  • Ductwork
  • Air handler
  • Central air conditioner
  • Thermostat
  • Filtration system

To work properly with an existing HVAC system, your new gas furnace must be properly sized for your heating load. The first step in learning how to buy a gas furnace is to match your size needs to the model. Only a reliable, local HVAC contractor can make the careful measurements and calculations needed to size your new gas furnace.

Once your contractor assesses the size (heating power) you need, you can expect to pay an Arizona average of $4,362 for just the furnace and installation, according to HomeAdvisor. The range, $2,531 to $6,558, indicates a lot of variables in the final price. These averages do not include costs for adapting ductwork, changing or retrofitting your plenum, or removing the old system.

Gas furnaces do not come in a one-size-fits-all model. Not only do you need to select a furnace that matches your heating load, but you can also choose between various types of gas furnaces, some more energy efficient than others.

Types of Gas Furnaces

Arizona homeowners and business owners interested in buying a gas furnace have two general choices: conventional or condensing.

The first type is less expensive at purchase but operates far less efficiently than the second type. To be useful, this gas furnace buying guide will lay out your options, but most HVAC contractors will point you toward a condensing gas furnace if you have plans to stay in your home or business for at least a decade; you will save a lot of money with the more efficient design.

#1 Conventional Furnace

Howard Air - Arizona's Gas Furnace Buying Guide Conventional Furnace Diagram
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Conventional furnaces burn natural gas in a heat exchanger to heat air forced through supply ducts. Cooled air is drawn in through return air ducts to be filtered and reheated. The exhaust gases go up a chimney. These gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water vapor, unburned natural gas, and methane) must exit hot and fast so they do not condense (cool out of gas form and become a liquid). Heat escapes up the flue.

#2 Condensing Furnace

Howard Air - Arizona's Gas Furnace Buying Guide Condensing Furnace Diagram
Source: Carson Dunlop/

Condensing gas furnaces, also referred to as high-efficiency furnaces, wring every bit of heat from the fuel by capturing the heat from the exhaust gases. A second heat exchanger handles the mildly corrosive, condensed exhaust gas, allowing the gas to condense into water and carbonic acid; any remaining gases escape up a plastic flue pipe, not a chimney.

High-efficiency furnace prices will be higher than conventional furnaces but are generally well worth the cost.

Gas Furnace Size Options

Howard Air - Arizona's Gas Furnace Buyer's Guide - Energy Star
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Older, less efficient gas furnaces from bygone years may have needed as much as 100,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units; an outdated term now used almost exclusively by HVAC contractors alone) to get only 65,000 BTUs of heating for your house. That means the old system might have been only 65 percent efficient.

Replacing that outdated model with a modern, energy-efficient one is the perfect answer to the question, “What kind of furnace should I buy?” Today’s much more efficient systems can take only 82,000 BTUs to get the same heating power of 65,000 BTUs. That is 80 percent efficient.

Energy Star requires Arizona, and other areas dedicated as U.S. South, gas furnaces to be 90 percent efficient to earn its mark of approval. U.S. North requires 95% efficiency due to the colder climate. By purchasing a much more efficient gas furnace, you will save money in the long run on fuel costs, electricity, and replacement costs. A more efficient system does not work as hard as a less efficient system, so it lasts longer.

By working with your HVAC contractor, you can be sure to get exactly the right size gas furnace for your heating needs. Do not overbuy too large a system, and do not buy too small a system. Either short-cycling or constant running will quickly erase any supposed savings.

Gas Furnace Brands

According to Angie’s List, only six manufacturers in North America make around 150 different “brands” of furnaces. A single manufacturer might make many different brands, each slightly different from the other brands coming off the same assembly line. Yet, among all those brands and models, most use identical parts.

Lennox, for example, also makes Armstrong and Concord. Trane makes gas furnaces, but also makes American Standard. Among manufacturers, Carrier is a standout, producing not only the Carrier brand but also Payne, Bryant, and Tempstar.

Gas furnace brands depend less on unique, custom-made components as they do on combining components to enhance particular traits:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Ease of servicing
  • Durability
  • Reliability

Carrier brand gas furnaces, to take one brand, are exemplars of gas furnaces because of the models they produce, such as the Infinity series. This level of high-efficiency gas furnace includes Carrier’s special touches like Comfort Heat technology, QuieTech noise reduction system, and a variable speed blower. Carrier also produces the Performance series and Comfort series.

Whatever brand of gas furnace you choose, make certain it is popular enough to be amply supported by both HVAC contractors and parts supply houses. Carrier furnaces are extremely popular throughout the state, so if you find a need to buy Carrier furnace components, you will have no trouble with item scarcity.

Gas Furnace Efficiency Options

Howard Air - Arizona's Gas Furnace Buyer's Guide - Cost More Money
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We mentioned before the availability of high-efficiency gas furnaces. These make sense if you plan to stay in your home (or business) for at least a decade. The higher initial cost will be more than offset by great gains in heating efficiency, as these models use much less natural gas than less efficient models.

Furnace efficiency is measured in AFUE, which means Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. In the “old days,” HVAC contractors typically installed low-efficiency gas furnaces running as low as 55 percent efficient, confident in gas furnace size and relative cheapness of fuel. A typical conventional gas furnace today will earn an AFUE of 78 percent to 83 percent, meaning it wrests up to 83 percent of available heat from the natural gas fuel.

To get your money’s worth, you have to step up to high-efficiency, condensing gas furnaces that can capture up to 98 percent of the heat available in the fuel.

A few other amazing technological tricks are up a crafty HVAC contractor’s sleeve for installing high-efficiency gas furnaces. When you cast about to decide where to buy a furnace, turn not to a big-box store or online discount site, but go for your trusted, local contractor. Only your HVAC contractor can put together the right combination of furnace components to yield energy efficiency and environmentally friendly heating:

  1. Condensing furnace
  2. Electronic ignition
  3. Choose from a single, two-stage, or modulating furnace
  4. Variable-speed blower

Couple these innovations with some strong inner hardware:

Steel tube main heat exchanger
Secondary stainless heat exchanger for condensing flue gases
Sealed combustion chamber

Not only will you have a very high efficiency that keeps natural gas bills lower, but you will also enjoy a long-lasting, durable furnace that lends itself to easy maintenance. Your home will feel warmer, with more stable indoor temperatures and fewer cold spots.

Gas Furnace Buying Tips

Howard Air - Arizona's Gas Furnace Buyer's Guide - Energy Star
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For most people, the do-it-yourself route is ill-advised. Yes, you can buy your own gas furnace online or from a big-box home improvement store, but then what? Few reliable, trustworthy HVAC contractors will accept your merchandise and agree to perform the installation. That leaves you with hiring a jack- or jill-of-all-trades to do the job. What started off as a bargain will snowball into an expensive and uncertain project.

While we at Howard Air may seem naturally biased in encouraging our readers and customers to use a local HVAC contractor, it really is in our customers’ interest. If you invest in an expensive piece of heating equipment and the installation is poorly done, you will never get satisfaction (or enough heat!) from your investment. This is one reason we recommend using a local contractor, someone you can call back if you are dissatisfied.

Before purchasing your furnace, a consultation with an Phoenix-based HVAC company can make your buying decision easier. Getting the size, type, and brand right is the first part of the puzzle; getting expert installation and suitable accessories are the second part of the gas furnace puzzle. A local, knowledgeable HVAC contractor like Howard Air can help you solve the puzzle quickly, painlessly, and accurately.

As we wrap up this buying guide, we would like to summarize a few of the best bits of advice:

  • Insist that your contractor measures your home to calculate heating load;
  • Talk through the pros and cons of conventional or condensing gas furnaces with your contractor;
  • Buy no larger a gas furnace than your contractor recommends, based on calculated heat load;
  • Buy the highest AFUE rating you can comfortably afford, being sure to ask about financing plans and specials;
  • Go with a known, national brand like Carrier;
  • Consider helpful accessories and components like electronic ignition, a variable-speed blower, and permanent filters;
  • Invest in a new, programmable thermostat for your new gas furnace;
  • Use a local, community-minded heating contractor for installation and continued service;
  • Get a detailed estimate from your contractor on modifications to be made to your existing system, labor costs, and tying your central air conditioner into the new gas furnace.

Have More Questions? Contact Howard Air!

The trained professionals of Howard Air are ready to help you through all stages of your purchase – from selecting a model that is a perfect fit for your budget and needs to installing it flawlessly. We can also teach you how to use your programmable thermostat, how to change the filters, and when to contact us for regular maintenance. Please contact Howard Air today to learn more about Arizona’s most popular heat plant, the efficient, modern gas furnace.

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