People often ask us, what is the best furnace brand? Just as with air conditioners, I tell them that they should spend more time worrying about which contractor they choose to install it, than they should about the top furnace brand. But, this advice is usually ignored, so today we will discuss the top 10 furnace brands of 2016. Those of you who have read our articles, know that we are a small, U.S. Veteran-Owned and operated HVAC business located in Southern California, and we have built our reputation in the industry by giving honest, straight answers to our customers – today will be no different. First, we will discuss the methods we used to determine which furnace brand provides the most value to our customers. We will then discuss whether it’s necessary to buy a new furnace yet by looking at some common troubleshooting methods. We’ll look at some of the basic features offered by the top ten furnace brands today, and finally, we’ll take a look at our list of the top 10 furnace brands of 2016.
Troubleshooting Before Researching the Top 10 Furnace Brands of 2016
I know that you are interested in the top ten furnace brands and are probably in the market for a new furnace; don’t let me talk you out of it. But have you spent a little time troubleshooting? I know, I know…the HVAC technician that looked at your furnace said it needed to be replaced…shocker. He may have also said that you had a crack in your heat exchanger, and that your family was at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Look, this isn’t my first rodeo, and I’ve heard all of the excuses before – that one is a favorite. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a job-walk to find the furnace-in-question in perfect operating condition, minus a 35-cent blown fuse.
Look, if your technician said that you have a cracked heat exchanger, I’m not saying to blow it off – don’t…I’m just saying, they use that excuse a lot to sell you new equipment, so be careful.
To really check a heat exchanger, you need a rather expensive piece of equipment called a Scoped Inspection Camera, with Infrared Capability. It looks like something a Navy SEAL would carry around with him…a camera at the end of a long, probe scope. If you didn’t see them use one, then the red flags should go up! I digress…
The point is this…do some basic troubleshooting before you research the top ten furnace brands. Here a few articles to get you started:
- Furnace Smells Like Gas – Troubleshooting
- Furnace Won’t Turn Off Troubleshooting
- Furnace Won’t Turn On Troubleshooting
Top 10 Furnace Brands of 2016 – Price vs. Value
To understand our list of the top 10 furnace brands, it is important to first look at how we arrived at these rankings. After all, are these just our arbitrary opinions? No. As I mentioned in the sister article: Top 10 Air Conditioner Brands, it is important to understand the difference between price, and value. If something is received at the lowest possible cost to you, then it is said to have a low price. However, if it is the cheapest, made-in-China (Taiwan, or wherever) furnace and it breaks in a year and a half, then it doesn’t have much value.
Value is important because it allows us to take a look at multiple factors, including the price, but not limited to it. An example I am fond of, is Carrier furnaces. Carrier makes terrific equipment, but they are also on the expensive side. So, although a Carrier Infinity 98 Furnace might be a great piece of equipment, it is well outside the price range of the average consumer, so it hasn’t much value in our rankings of the top 10 furnace brands. However, the parent company of Carrier – United Technologies – also produces the same equipment under the furnace brand name Day & Night, for significantly cheaper prices. So, I’d argue that Day & Night has more value than Carrier. Make sense?
How Value Was Determined for Our List of the Top 10 Furnace Brands
At All Systems Mechanical, we are licensed to install all major furnace brands, and have no loyalty to any one brand. It is important to know that, as this list of the top 10 furnace brands will be completely unbiased – these are our opinions of the furnace industry as of now, based on our own experience, and real customer feedback. In fact, if I may make a suggestion, I would be a bit wary of using any HVAC company that only sells one specific brand of furnace – after all, what is their motivation to sell you the best equipment for your project? Furnaces from all brands have good years, and bad…so just take what a “licensed distributor” type-company says with a grain of salt, that’s all. Are they honestly going to tell you that another brand, which they don’t sell, is better for your house? Of course not.
To get in-depth as to how we constructed our list of the top furnace brands is outside the scope of this article. However, we factored in several different value aspects when constructing our top 10 furnace brand list, including, but not limited to:
- Reliability – this is a pet peeve of ours; we built our reputation on seeking out and recommending the best equipment for our clients. It has to work reliably. Period; non-negotiable.
- Cost – cost to our clients is also a key factor in determining the best furnace brand for your project.
- Customer Service – we guarantee our work with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, but your furnace will be with you for a long time – usually 20-30 years! It is important that we provide you with a company that takes care of its customers – customer service is a must.
- Features – these are the gadgets! Those of you who have read a few of my articles, know that I’m not a big fan of the high-priced, unreliable, high-SEER technology in variable-speed condensers for air conditioners – it’s just something that doesn’t work very well, and will be expensive to fix when it breaks. This is not so for furnaces, however – the technology in high-efficiency furnaces is very reliable, so spend-away if it is within your budget, especially if you live in a colder region like Bozeman, Montana.
Top 10 Furnace Brands – Should You Repair or Replace?
It might be worth repairing your furnace before shopping for one of the top ten furnace brands, especially if it is under warranty. Most reputable furnace companies offer a 20-year no hassle warranty on their furnace heat exchangers (including all the companies on the list below), and a lifetime warranty for their top-end models, so keep that in mind. Many people like to tell you that it is more cost effective to replace your furnace when you install a new air conditioner. This is absolutely FALSE.
There are occasions for replacing your furnace with your air conditioner, such as if you are increasing the efficiency of your air conditioner, and need a new blower motor to get your SEER value up (a component typically enclosed inside of your furnace). Or, if your furnace is getting older, it might be time to replace that too. But remember:
Tip: an experienced HVAC technician will almost always able to make a new air conditioner work in conjunction with an existing furnace. The furnace and air conditioner do NOT need to be the same brand for “compatibility” reasons.
That being said, an air conditioner typically lasts between 10 and 15 years, while a furnace usually lasts between 20 and 30 years. So, as you might imagine, you can usually go through two air conditioners in the life-span of your furnace. Just something to ponder before making your decision (if one of our guys ends up at your house and tells you that you need a new furnace, please don’t say, “but Tim said in his Top 10 Furnace Brands article that…”)
Furnace 101 – The Crash Course on Furnace Features
Before we start in on our top 10 furnace brands, you’ll need to know a few things about furnaces. Although an in-depth discussion is not necessary, you’ll still need to refresh on a few things:
AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, which is a really fancy way of saying, “this is how efficient your furnace is at translating fuel into heat for your home.” The higher it is, the better. So an 80% AFUE furnace means that 80% of your fuel will be used to directly heat your home, and the other 20% will be wasted up the flue (of course, 100% efficiency is physically impossible, due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and the Carnot Limit – say that ten times fast).
Single-Stage Furnaces vs. Two-Stage Furnaces
Single-Stage Gas Furnace – This means that your furnace has two settings, “RUNNING,” and “NOT RUNNING.” Seriously…
Two-Stage Furnace – The two-stage furnace has a little trick up its sleeve…it is essentially two little furnaces, all packed into one. So on chilly days, it runs one stage, just like the single-stage furnace, but when it gets really cold, it can kick into high-gear and turn on the second stage. What this does, is allow the furnace to operate more efficiently, and waste less fuel. The better furnaces will be two-stage.
Variable-Speed Fans and Modulating Gas Valves
Variable-Speed Fan – This is a high-efficiency feature used typically in high-AFUE furnaces (i.e. if you live in California, you don’t need one). But up north where it is cold, a variable-speed fan allows your furnace to operate more efficiently by varying the speed at which air flows over the heat exchanger. You can think of it as being kind of like the gas pedal in your car…now you can vary the speed of the fan just like a gas pedal varies the speed of your car, instead of just having it run ON or OFF.
Modulating Valve – This is also a high-efficiency feature, and it allows your furnace to modulate the rate at which fuel is injected into your furnace. Along with the Variable-Speed Fan, this feature can really increase the efficiency of your furnace, but you typically won’t see one unless you are in the northern states.
You now officially know as much as I do about furnaces! Congratulations! Now let’s discuss the top 10 furnace brands.
Top 10 Furnace Brands of 2016 – The List
Okay, you’ve been waiting for me to stop ranting and get to the point. That being said, before we get started, I’m going to beat a dead horse – spend your time researching contractors – most of the high-end furnace brands are going to be comparable. There are a few to avoid, but I’ll address that later. Here is our list of the top 10 furnace brands:
Part I – Our Top Picks of the Top 10 Furnace Brands of 2016
1. Day & Night Furnaces
Day & Night comes in first in our list of the top ten furnace brands. I can hear you now, “but Tim, I’ve never heard of Day & Night!” But, the story of Day & Night doesn’t start and end with whether or not you’ve heard of them, it starts with who owns them…those of us who are in the industry, know that United Technologies (UT) makes some of the best, most reliable HVAC equipment. What people don’t tell you, and what even most of the HVAC guys out there don’t know, is that UT makes several brand names, and uses most of the same internal components for each. These names include Carrier, Bryant, Day & Night, and Payne.
In fact, up until 5-7 years ago (take your heart medication right now if you need to), all four brand names came as the same exact unit – there only was one unit for all four bands – and had four different name-plates enclosed in the box. So, if you bought a Carrier, the contractor would charge you “Carrier prices,” and glue on a Carrier name tag. If you got Day & Night, you paid half the price, and he would install a Day & Night name tag. Funny story, if you have a minute: Mike, my business partner, used to tick-off our competition because he’d charge the same, fair price for all four names and not do the mark-up for Carrier and Bryant. He’d ask the customer, “what furnace brand do you want it to say? Carrier? Payne?” And then he would stick on the name tag right in front of them. They have since wised up, and the exteriors for each brand name are different now…but the interior components look eerily similar…
Carrier and Day & Night are basically the same, only Carrier is far more expensive. Plus, Day & Night has amazing customer service, so that’s why they come in first on our list of the Top 10 Furnace Brands. The only downside is availability – they may not be in your area, so take a look and shop around. But overall, Day & Night provides a tremendous value to its customers, and that is why they came in first on our list of the top ten furnace brands. More information on Day & Night can be found on these pages:
2. Daiken Furnaces
Daiken ranks second on our list of the top 10 furnace brands. I like Daiken for many of the same reasons that I like Day & Night over Carrier – primarily that they aren’t that well known of a brand, but they offer the same technology as their parent company, Goodman Manufacturing. As such, you get a great value in this brand because you are getting the technology and workmanship, but you aren’t paying for the big brand name like Goodman, or Amana (we’ll talk about them later, but Daiken is the third name offered in the “Goodman line” of products). They offer all of the same technologies as their counterparts, including a high-efficiency, variable-speed, modulating gas furnace that rates at 97% AFUE, at half the price of Goodman or Amana.
For more on Daiken, see:
3. Goodman Furnaces
In case you haven’t figured it out, we like the lesser-known companies because they offer the same technology and internal components as the name brand units, at a fraction of the price – a recipe for good value to our clients. Finishing third on our list of the top ten furnace brands, is Goodman Manufacturing.
Goodman is somewhat well known to consumers, more commonly in Texas where they are built, but not as well known as one of their subsidiary companies… Amana. Goodman offers three products in their line: Goodman, Amana and Daiken. Although they offer the same technology and internal components as their Daiken counterpart, the price goes up a bit to have the name Goodman, so they rank after Daiken in our book. They have a reputation for reliability, superior warranties, and fantastic customer service.
See more on Goodman furnaces here:
4. Bryant Furnaces
Bryant finished fourth on our list of the top ten furnace brands. As you read above, Bryant is made by the same parent company as Carrier and Day & Night, and they do offer the same technology, right down to the same internal components. The problem is, however, that now they are starting to get on the pricier side of things. Although I like their products, realize that many of the top companies offer the exact same technology, and even use the same internal components, so the price of Bryant is a real turn off to me. They do have a solid reputation, though, so if you find a contractor that you like, and they sell Bryant, don’t shirk away – they are solid and dependable, even if they are starting to get pricy.
For more on Bryant, see:
5. Rheem Furnaces
Those of you who are regular readers, know that I have no love for Rheem air conditioners, but Rheem actually does make a pretty solid furnace that is affordable, so they actually came in fifth on our list of the top ten furnace brands. The only drawback to Rheem furnaces is that often times, unless you live up north where you don’t need an air conditioner, they are paired with Rheem air conditioners. I cannot stand Rheem AC’s because of their “unique” zig-zag coil configuration, which freezes up faster than their competitors (that’s bad), and is impossible to clean, often eating to premature replacement. Their furnaces, however, are what they actually built their reputation on – they are solid and reliable.
Tip: my advice for Rheem would be to choose them ONLY if you are not getting a matching air conditioner. They are a furnace company, and in my humble opinion, they should have stuck with furnaces. Dismounting my high-horse now…
More on Rheem can be found here:
6. Ruud Furnaces
So, you just read my opinions on Rheem…copy and paste that here for my opinions on Ruud, and you’ll see why they came in sixth on our list of the top ten furnace brands. They make a very usable furnace, so don’t be turned off of them if you live in Michigan, but avoid them at all costs when it comes to air conditioners. Why, you ask? Because, you guessed it…they are the same company as Rheem!
If you haven’t caught on yet, there are only really a few heating and air conditioning companies, but they like to advertise themselves as different businesses. That’s why when someone tells me, “I don’t like Trane, I prefer American Standard,” I kind of laugh, and avoid rolling my eyes…you guessed it! Same company. Again, I am ranting…Ruud is just Rheem. Great furnaces, bad AC’s.
More on Ruud:
7. Trane Furnaces
Trane also makes a superb furnace, although, to be honest, I like their products better in the commercial sector. Nevertheless, they ranked seventh on our list of the top 10 furnace brands. We see a lot of commercial-grade chillers from Trane, but the reason I ranked them seventh on our list of the top furnace brands, is because they are EXPENSIVE for what you get, competing primarily with Carrier and Lennox.
You get what you pay for, right? Not in this instance – like I said before, these companies all use many of the same internal components, so I just don’t feel like Trane’s prices are justified. That being said, they still rank on my “happy-list’ because their equipment is reliable and sturdy.
More on Trane furnaces:
8. Carrier Furnaces
Wow. Why so hard on Carrier? Carrier ranks eighth on our list of the top ten furnace brands because of the same reason for which I just penalized Trane – they are way overpriced for what you are getting. But, unlike Trane, Carrier should know better, because they offer the exact same furnace technology under the product name of Day & Night for half the price, and Bryant for three-quarters the price. Ridiculous.
But, they do make fantastic products, and are reliable. They are not, however, by any means, the “pinnacle of the industry” that they would have you believe. For that, they’d need to lower their prices. Their warranty programs and customer service are a bit lackluster as well, so they’ll have to get warm and cozy down in eighth place.
More on Carrier furnaces:
9. American Standard Furnaces
Ninth on our list of the top ten furnace brands is American Standard. Isn’t American Standard the same company that makes urinals and toilets? Yep…same company. They also make air conditioners and furnaces. American Standard is owned by Trane, and offers the exact same line of products at almost the same prices. So, my questions then becomes: why do you even exist under a different name? Most of the companies mentioned thus far do, to be fair, also offer the same technology as their subsidiaries, but at least they break themselves out in prices and marketing. American Standard, in my opinion, does not. They are Trane, they are almost the exact same price as Trane, so what is the point? That’s why they finish off ninth in our list of the top 10 furnace brands.
Note: You might think that I am being harsh on some of these companies, but to be honest, I am concerned with offering customers the best value for their money, not ingratiating myself with manufacturing companies. Plus, you have to realize that I am only discussing the top ten furnace brands, but there are literally dozens of companies, many of which we didn’t rank high enough to make the list. So, ninth, for instance, is pretty respectable.
More on American Standard furnaces:
Part II – Furnace Companies NOT Recommended on Our List of the Top 10 Furnace Brands of 2016.
10. Lennox Furnaces
Tenth on our list of the top 10 furnace brands is Lennox, and we just can’t recommend them. Look, all I am offering you is the truth. I know that Lennox is a “big” name in HVAC, but they are resting on their laurels a bit too much. In the early 90’s, they were the name in HVAC. These days…not so much. I just can’t recommend Lennox furnaces (or air conditioners), and the reasons are simple: they have horrible customer service, and their logistics chain is sub-standard – my biggest issue is the latter.
I definitely would not recommend any company that has poor customer service, but looking past that, Lennox has a very serious issue with their logistics chain as well. Think about the other brands I just mentioned…what did they have in common? Come on…I said it more than once…they all used many of the same internal components. What does this mean to you? It means that if your Bryant furnace breaks, and Bryant doesn’t have the part, I’ll walk over to Carrier or Day & Night and get the same exact part and repair your furnace – the same day.
But Lennox is not like that. They have very few supply houses, and their technology is completely proprietary. If they don’t have the part, we’ll have to order it for you, and you’ll be without heat for three weeks while you wait on them. In California, big deal – grab a jacket. In Michigan, this is a SERIOUS issue, and I just can’t recommend them. Plus, since they are proprietary, their equipment costs three times as much to repair.
“But Tim…I just bought a new Lennox!!! My life is over…did I waste money?” Yes…yes you did. But the good news is, they do make reliable equipment, so even though you paid a lot more than you needed to, it is still decent equipment, which is why it made our list of the top 10 furnace brands and is worth mentioning, even if we don’t recommend them.
More on Lennox furnaces can be found here:
Consumer Reviews of the Top 10 Furnace Brands
I love to do research online before I make any decision (as do you, or you wouldn’t be reading), including what consumer feedback is on the top 10 furnace brands. If I’m going to try out a restaurant, I want to know that the people who have already been there actually liked it! However, throughout my years in the HVAC industry, I have found that consumer reviews are not very representative of which are the top furnace brands. Why, you might ask?
Consumers are stupid (not you, of course, you’re the exception). Yes I’m joking, but in a way, I’m also being serious. What I mean is that if a person eats at a restaurant and loves it, thought it was mediocre, or hates it, they will go online and readily write a consumer review. But this is not so for the HVAC manufacturing industry. If a person buys a brand new furnace and it fails in two years, they go online and write horrible review of the manufacturer…but only rarely is it the manufacturers fault. It is our fault…the contractors who installed it. Even the cheapest, no-name furnace brands will last 10-15 years. So, the people with negative reviews should be blaming the contractors, not the manufacturers (unless you use us…then it’s the manufacturers).
However, where the consumer review results get skewed, is if the furnace does really well…if your furnace never has an issue and lasts 35 years without a problem, do you go online and write positive review (like you would for a restaurant with great food and service)? Nope. Because that’s what it’s supposed to do, right? Take a look at the consumer reviews of the top 28 furnace brands as of this year.
Now, you might look at the list and say, “who the hell are these companies? Never heard of them…” That’s what I said too. But think about it critically for a second…does a top furnace brand like Trane sell more furnaces than a smaller furnace company like Clare or Olsen? Of course they do; they are also exposed to more improper installations from shabby contractors, and therefore more negative reviews.
Still not convinced? I’ll do you one better with a quick story…a few years ago, my partner Mike and I were going through the various air conditioner brands and ranking them for our customers (long before we made such lists online). Mike had an interesting hypothesis:
- Mike suspected, that when a furnace or air conditioner was ranked first in consumer reviews one year, its ranking would then tank the next year because every single chop-shop and unlicensed contractor would be selling that equipment to get customers. On this particular year, Goodman ranked first…guess what happened the next year? You bet…Goodman reviews tanked, and the best part is, none of the major furnace brands had updated or changed their equipment – it was the same exact equipment! I’ve noticed this phenomenon every year since, to one degree or another.
The moral of the story is simple – most premature furnace or air conditioner failures are due to improper installation, not the equipment itself! As such, consumer reviews are a poor way to find the top furnace brand for your project.
Final Thoughts on Our Top 10 Furnace Brands
My advice on choosing one of the top 10 furnace brands is simple: spend your time researching HVAC contractors until you find someone that you trust, then make sure that they use one of the reputable brands above. I’ve given you my opinions on the matter – at great length – but at least now you have a good place to start from. To help in your search, here is a good article: How to Choose an HVAC Contractor. Overall, they are all high-quality furnaces that should last you 20-30 years if cared for properly. I hope this helped, good luck, and if you live in Southern California, you might be in our service area! Click below for more details.