In many cases, when buying a furnace, the choice to use a forced air propane furnace has been pre-determined due to available heating fuel sources, the existing system in your home, and to some degree, climate. The biggest factor is typically availability. If you have ever driven through a rural area you have likely seen a house with a propane tank out in the yard. Propane gas is more prevalent in these areas because lot sizes are bigger, homes are more spread out, and there just isn’t an infrastructure of natural gas lines as is the case in more compactly populated areas.
Why use Propane?
Propane offers some of the same qualities of natural gas – it’s considered to be clean-burning, it actually contains more heating capacity in BTUs (British Thermal Units) per cubic foot than natural gas, and with a professional delivery service, it provides a reliable supply of fuel. Other options in these areas include electric heat through either a heat pump system or electric furnace. These solutions are more common in southern parts of the U.S. where winters are milder and heating seasons are shorter or less severe. And, many people simply prefer the feel and comfort of gas heating due to the warmer heating output coming out of the registers.
Propane Furnaces Costs
As with any other heating and cooling system, costs for an LP furnace can vary widely depending on a number of variables. That goes both for initial installation and ongoing costs associated with operating the furnace.
Cost of forced air propane furnace
The best way to get an accurate cost estimate for a new propane furnace heating system is to contact an experienced HVAC professional who can accurately assess heating needs including sizing/heating capacity, homeowner comfort and efficiency preferences and installation costs. More information on the cost of a new furnace can be found on our dedicated furnace cost page. Generally, propane furnace pricing is a little higher than natural gas models due to the costs associated with the required conversion kits and labor. For more information on propane conversion, skip ahead to the section on Converting from Natural Gas to Propane.
Fuel Cost for LP Furnace
Fueling costs play an ongoing role for the life of the furnace. Cost of propane gas can fluctuate from region-to-region and according to supply and demand. The same goes for both natural gas and fuel oil. Propane gas systems also require a propane tank on your property and incur additional costs with delivering the gas on a regular basis. Technically, propane gas can outperform natural gas in terms of heating output per unit consumed3. However, the cost of propane gas is typically higher than natural gas and fuel oil, so if you need a propane furnace, expect your heating fuel bills to potentially increase. Selecting a high efficiency propane furnace with variable-speed blowers and two or more heating stages can help mitigate those costs with higher efficiency operation. For information on fuel costs in your area, contact your local utility companies or fuel delivery services.
Forced Air Propane Furnace Efficiency
Because all Carrier® natural gas furnaces can be converted to use propane, propane furnaces offer the same range of energy efficiency. The minimum efficiency required by the Department of Energy is 80% AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). These models are fairly basic and do not include a standing pilot light, instead using a pilotless igniter to save fuel. To be considered a high efficiency unit, a propane or gas furnace typically achieves at least 90% AFUE and usually includes a primary and secondary (or condensing) heat exchanger. To achieve mid to high 90% efficiency, a furnace typically has a variable-speed blower motor and two or more stages of heating to match heating output with demand as conditions change. Carrier high efficiency furnaces can be rated as high as 98% efficiency AFUE and include intelligent, communicating technology designed to help enhance your comfort. Energy efficiency aside, overall fuel costs will likely be higher with a propane furnace. That has more to do with the costs associated with the propane tank itself, delivery service for the liquid propane, and the cost per unit of propane.
As with most pieces of equipment, the lifespan of an LP furnace depends on a number of factors, including correct sizing, quality of installation, general usage patterns, routinely changing furnace filters, maintenance and more. With that in mind, a high-quality propane furnace from a reputable manufacturer might last between 15-30 years before needing to be replaced. More answers to the question “how long does a furnace last?” and ways to help prolong furnace life can be found by following the link to our dedicated page on this topic.
Converting from Natural Gas to Propane
Converting a natural gas furnace to use propane is a common industry practice. The conversion is handled by a qualified HVAC technician using a conversion kit. The conversion involves replacing natural gas burner orifices with orifices that are calibrated for propane, installing “spoiler screws” in the burner, and adding a low gas pressure switch. This not a job for the casual DIYer. All Carrier natural gas furnaces can be converted for use with propane, including high efficiency units with up to 98% AFUE gas efficiency.
LP Furnace Service and Maintenance
The best way to prolong the life of propane furnaces is with regular, routine furnace maintenance. One easy-to-do task is inspecting your furnace filter, then cleaning or replacing it as needed. A neglected furnace filter with enough buildup of dust and debris can restrict airflow which can lead to a number of issues. Poor airflow can lead to reduced comfort and can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the blower motor by making it work harder to keep the air moving. In more extreme cases, a clogged filter can potentially cause your furnace to overheat and shut down. Just as your car benefits from regular tune-ups, be sure to schedule regular clean and check appointments with your local HVAC professional. Your technician will clean, check and adjust all of the critical system components to help keep the furnace in top operating condition and efficiency. Your contractor can also recommend or make minor repairs proactively to avoid a more serious, inconvenient and potentially expensive service call down the road.