Help me choose a furnace

I have had four estimates to replace our 57-year old gravity furnace with a new forced-air gas furnace. The installation companies are all comparable, and the estimates are all in the same ballpark. So the only meaningful criterion I can come up with to make the choice is the quality/value of the furnace itself.

Each is proposing a different brand and model, and I am trying to get more information from one of them (no luck so far, but it’s only been a day or so). They are all 80% efficiency (plenty here in the very moderate San Francisco area) two-stage furnaces. Here are the brands and models:

Payne (unknown model so far; reportedly manufactured as an off brand by Carrier)
Carrier 58CTX070
Bryant (probably Legacy Plus 80)
Trane XV80

Anyone with actual experience with any of these manufacturers and/or specific models?

I have looked for comparisons on the internet, and other than consumer reports (which I have to pay for before I even know if they have any useful information) I haven’t found any site that says they compare different furnace brands and/or models. If you know of such as site, that would be a blessing. Or I would pay for the consumer reports if I had confidence that it would address at least some of these furnaces.

nothing stops a trane

Carrier, Bryant, and Trane are all well-known furnace brands, with good reputations in general. They’re roughly of equal quality.

A bigger difference is the quality & carefulness of the installation. That is more significant than the differences between these furnaces. And that depends on the workmanship of the installers from the furnace companies.

So evaluate the installation companies, rather than the brand of furnaces they sell.

Ask for a list of customers, call some of them, and ask. Also look into the history of the companies – ones that have been in business for a long time obviously must have been satisfying enough customers to last that long. Ask friends & relatives who’ve had a furnace replaced which company they used, and if they were satisfied.

If you go to your local library back issues of Consumer Reports will probably be available. (There is an annual book that tells you when the last time furnaces were reviewed)


Ma had to replace her furnace at the end of December. Due to changes in furnaces and additions over the years. The furnace is now located in one end of the house. The last gas furnace didn’t get heat to the farthest end too well, even with a longer fan run time. She bought a 2 stage high efficiency furnace, with a dc variable speed fan. Different stages are programed to blow at the speed you want. The fan has low energy requirements, and the runs all the time. The house has a really nice even heat distribution now. Definitely look into this type of furnace.

I am an HVAC contractor and sell and service furnaces. It is my business, and I’ve been doing it for around 18 years. I spend most of my time in the field and see furnaces every single day. I’ve installed and/or serviced tens of thousands of them.

I’ve worked on all of the brands you’ve listed, and probably thousands of them.

Three of them are comparable, with the Payne being an inexpensive alternate to the other three. I would only accept the Payne proposal if it was significantly cheaper than the other three.

In my extensive, experienced opinion, is 100% spot on:

“A bigger difference is the quality & carefulness of the installation. That is more significant than the differences between these furnaces. And that depends on the workmanship of the installers from the furnace companies.”

If you outline the work scope a bit more, we can give you a list of things to ask for.

In short, all 4 brands are reputable brands. The difference will be in the quality of the installation.

I had a Carrier and we liked it fine. I think my most recent one is American Standard and we’re quite pleased.

the raindog, thanks, this is just what I was hoping for.

The scope of work is fairly straightforward. The existing furnace is sitting in the basement next to the garage. The existing ductwork is asbestos, so that will be removed by a third party. The new furnace will be moved about 4 feet, closer to a wall to take advantage of the smaller size.

One concern is with noise, since our existing furnace has no fan and so makes virtually no noise. One installer addressed this issue and discussed how their installation method works to abate noise; I didn’t directly ask the others about this issue.

Another concern is the flue - one installer suggested that it is probably an old (ceramic?) flue that would need to be replaced; on the other hand I think it may have been upgraded already in the '80’s. I should add that due to some framing and drywall covering most of the ductwork, no-one could see the flue directly at the time they came to do the estimate.

The third issue for me is making the installation in as compact an area as possible - this is San Francisco, so every inch of space is an issue.

By the way, the Payne bid is about $1K lower than the other bids, and the installer has a good reputation on Angie’s List, but unless he gets back to me soon with more about the particular model I’m not going to consider him further.

Thanks, all, for your feedback and information.


A few things for you to consider and to ask your installer:

  1. Will the installation include a new trunk line; or simply a “supply plenum” with round pipe coming off of it?

  2. What gage sheetmetal will be used on both the supply and return sheetmetal?
    (insist on 24 gage, not 26 or 28)

  3. Will any flex be used?

  4. If this was a gravity furnace, the registers were [likely] originally in the interior parts of the house. Are they still there? If so, are there provisions to move the registers to the exterior walls?

  5. What type of thermostat is being considered? (brand/model)

  6. Will a filter rack be built into the return duct? What size, and type of filter will be used? (think ease of access)

  7. Will the duct work be duct sealed to eliminate all leakage?

  8. Will permits be pulled and inspections performed?

  9. Will the duct be adequately sized to reduce air noise? What static pressure will it be sized for, on both supply and return? (.05 w.c. return, .10 w.c. supply)

  10. Is there an existing A/C system?

  11. Will any of the duct be insulated?

  12. What is the heat exchanger warranty, components warranty and labor warranty, respectively?

  13. Will they do a combustion analysys at start up?

  14. Will a journeyman be onsite at all times during installation?

  15. Will the furnace be on blocks/bricks to get it off the floor?

  16. Can the installer provide you 3 references of recent jobs that they’ve completed? How long in business? BBB?

  17. Is this unit a “builders model”?

I’ll post more as I think of them. If you have questions and would to talk live, you may PM or email me and I’ll give you my phone number.

One addition to the list provided by the raindog is: Was a comprehensive dwelling heat loss calculation performed to determine proper furnace sizing, or was it done by SWAG? Example-if I size a replacement on what’s in the occupancy, I’m hanging my hat on whatever calculation the last guy did or didn’t do correctly. They should be able to present a sheet showing all factors specific to your dwelling by which the final net heat requirement was determined.