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What is an Upflow versus a Downflow Furnace?

When you’re choosing the best type of furnace or heating system for your home, there’s a lot to consider. Size, fuel type, and energy efficiency are all important factors. Often overlooked is the consideration of whether to use an upflow or downflow furnace. The choice that’s best for you will depend on the climate you live in and your individual circumstances.

Read on to discover the difference between the two, weigh the pros and cons of each, and decide which best fits your needs.


Upflow vs Downflow Furnace: What’s the Difference?

The fundamental difference between an upflow and a downflow furnace is the direction of airflow.

An upflow furnace is installed in the lowest level of your home and functions by taking in cold air at the bottom of the unit and expelling warm air upwards, working with heat’s natural tendency to rise.

A downflow furnace is commonly installed in the attic and functions by taking in air at the top and expelling heated or cooled air downward.

Upflow Furnace: Pros & Cons

An upflow furnace has a combustion chamber at the top and a blower fan underneath. Located in the basement or the lowest room of the house, it pulls in cool air from the duct system, pushes it over a heat exchanger to generate heat, and distributes the warm air upwards and throughout your home.

Since hot air naturally rises and cool air sinks, this system saves energy and allows heat to efficiently rise to various levels of your home. An upflow furnace provides a comfortable and cozy heating solution for the winter months, especially if you live in a cold climate.

The downside is that upflow furnaces have more strict installation requirements. Often, you’ll need a basement to get the most out of an upflow furnace. If you plan to use your furnace as air conditioning or a cooling unit in the summer, you’ll lose efficiency as the process is reversed to pull in heat and move cold air upwards – countering the natural tendency of hot air to rise.

Downflow Furnace: Pros & Cons

A downflow furnace is structurally opposite to an upflow furnace. The blower fan is at the top with a combustion chamber underneath. It functions by pulling in cool air, pushing it down over the heat exchanger and distributing warm air through your home. A downflow furnace is naturally suited to be installed in an attic or upper floor of the house, making it very versatile and easy to install in almost any type of home.

Downflow furnaces have a disadvantage in the winter months because they have to work against the natural tendencies of the air as it’s circulating, moving cold air upwards and pushing warm air down. In the summer months, they’re optimal for cooling as pulling in warm air that naturally rises and pushing cool air down takes less energy.

Which is the Right Choice for You?

When you’re deciding what’s right for you, it’s important to consider the design of your home, where you want to have the furnace installed, and the climate that you live in.

In general, upflow furnaces are more efficient for heating and downflow furnaces are more efficient for cooling. If you live in a cold climate and heat your home more than you use air conditioning, an upflow furnace may be the best option to help you stay warm and keep your heating costs low. A downflow furnace can be an energy efficient choice in warm climates where you’re using it as a cooling system more often than a heat source.

If you need help choosing the best option for you, call the experts at Ashton for all your HVAC and heating service needs.

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