What is a Residential Furnace?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 February 2020
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A residential furnace is a type of furnace specifically designed for residential use. Often, these furnaces will be smaller than furnaces used for commercial spaces, simply because there will be less of an area needing to be heated. Types of furnaces common in residential settings include natural gas, electric, propane and fuel oil.

Of the many types of heaters available, the residential furnace is used to provide central heat to a home. This is often considered the most efficient way to provide heat, as space heaters generally take up a significant amount of energy and only heat a limited area. When wide areas and multiple rooms need heated, a residential furnace is a common option.

Counterparts to the residential furnace include the commercial furnace and industrial furnace. In addition to using furnaces, some of these larger sites may decide to use boilers, which create steam for use to heat the air. This may be a good option for larger areas and is generally considered to be very safe.

While nearly half of residential furnaces run on natural gas, other fuels are also possible when running the heating system. These other options are often utilized when natural gas delivery is impossible, impractical, or too expensive. For example, natural gas is often piped to homes. This type of infrastructure is generally not available in rural areas so fuel oil, propane or other types of fuel are utilized for the residential furnace.


Like most furnaces, the residential furnace works simply by heating air and then forcing that air throughout the rest of the home. Some also call these types of furnaces forced-air furnaces. To accomplish this, two main parts of a residential furnace are needed. These pieces are the burner, which is responsible for heating, and the blower, which is responsible for the air movement in and out of the furnace.

A thermostat is generally used to control the residential furnace. This device constantly measures the temperature and will make adjustments as necessary. Once the temperature drops to a certain level, it will automatically trigger the furnace on. When the temperature rises to a certain level, the furnace will automatically switch off. Some thermostats can be programmed to keep the home near certain temperatures at different points of the day.

Most homeowners are concerned about the efficiency of their residential furnace, simply because an inefficient furnace can be substantially more expensive to operate. Many things can effect efficiency, such as the air filter, clogged ducts, ducts with holes and home insulation. Considering all of these areas together will help provide a comprehensive solution to any efficiency issues.


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