Furnace in Attic: Good or Bad?

The availability of space  is a real crisis these days. To be able to find a home that has satisfactorily large living space as well as space for storage is like hitting the jackpot. Installing a bulky thing like a furnace in the easily accessible storage space like a basement seems like a huge waste.

But what if it can be installed somewhere non-traditional where it will be in nobody’s way and won’t eat up storage space as well? Yes, we are referring to placing the furnace in the attic instead.

Having it up there also creates more usable space in the main storage area and on top of that installing a furnace in the attic is easier and cheaper. Since its access point will obviously be through the roof, that also makes the prospect of repairing broken parts easier.

But to be fair, installing a furnace in the attic has its own share of cons as well. Let us have a look at all the pros and cons of placing your furnace in the attic.

Furnace in the attic: Pros and Cons

Furnace in the attic: Pros and Cons
John Wolf / Dreamstime.com

Before we begin, it should be stated that the pros and cons regarding this installation will solely depend on the state of the attic itself and thus an expert should have a look at your attic before you make the final decision.


Saves space

Modern HVAC units are made up of multiple individual components which have to be set up indoors as well as outdoors to ensure uninterrupted warm/cool air into the home. But space is limited and dedicating an entire area or storage closet for the HVAC is not ideal for many homeowners.

 That is why installing the furnace in the attic saves a lot of space from the areas such as the basement or garages where other more immediately necessary everyday objects need to be stored. 

Compatible with all types of homes

If your home does not have a basement then placing the furnace on the ground floor is an impractical idea as the air movement will not be as good as it should be.

This is because the HVAC is modeled to have a downflow of air and therefore the movement of air upwards will not be as effective. But placing it in the attic will make sure the air is channeled downwards thus making the airflow efficient.

Installation costs will be cheaper

The furnace is a forced air system and installing these in the attic is cheaper than most other options. Sometimes the furnace is installed in the attic solely because it makes sense if the cost is taken into consideration.

Moreover installation costs and later on, maintenance costs also include the cost of labor which can be minimized with an attic installation as the access point is through the roof.

Besides the cost of labor, the installation itself is easier because of the proximity to the roof as the venting for the furnace requires less work in an attic than, say, if it was in the garage somewhere on the ground floor of the house.

Unless there is a slab, the venting can be done directly through the roof instead of having to route it from an exterior wall. This makes installing the ductwork along the upper floor much easier.

Less risk of Flooding

This may not be relevant to everyone but those who experience flooding due to heavy rainfall or melting ice etc, know exactly how destructive the unwanted water flow can be, It destroys everything in its way, and having the furnace located on the lower levels is risky as if the water reaches this part, it will certainly be destroyed.

The water level while a flood rarely ever reaches more than a couple of feet from the ground level and this essentially means that placing the furnace in the attic will ensure that the component stays out of the reaches of water.

Any furnace destroyed by the flood will certainly have to be replaced entirely as these machines are not built for dealing with water and moreover a flooded furnace can even create a risky living situation.

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Lowered efficiency of the furnace

It is common knowledge that warm air being very light rises upwards. Furnaces apply this fact to their models when it is installed in the basement or on the ground floor. The warm air rises upward naturally instead of being forced down with special installments.

The furnace in the basement ensures that all the cold air eventually ends back to the lower levels and the warm air is distributed above. This is the reason why the basements of houses are colder as compared to the rooms above even though the furnace is right there.

If the furnace is placed in the attic then special infrastructure will have to be installed which will force the warm air downwards and this whole thing will eat up more energy. So, you will end up having a furnace with lowered efficiency and increased energy consumption.

Damages may go unnoticed

The furnace when operating does make a low but consistent sound and it can get annoying. Placing it in the attic thus rids the immediate hearing range of homeowners from this distracting sound.

This is generally considered a positive outcome of having to place the furnace in the attic but the thing that ends up happening in most cases is that the presence of a running furnace slips the consciousness of the people residing in the home and gets ignored.

As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”. The attic isn’t exactly a place that people go to very often unless absolutely unnecessary and this may make damages to the furnace go unnoticed until much later when it has grown into a much bigger problem and will need more money and resources to be fixed than if the problem had been discovered before.

So while the constant whirring sound from the furnace may not be able to bother you from the attic, any unusual sound will also escape your notice, unless you make a regular visit to the attic and check on the furnace.

Ductwork may get damaged

Furnace installation in the attic may have many pros but it is definitely not good news for the ducts that have to be fitted according to the direction of airflow.

As already mentioned before, the attic will be the warmest room both because of the act the air from the furnace rises upwards and the attic is the highest there is and also because of the natural sunlight that beats down on the roof and subsequently makes the attic a hot and stuffy place.

This excessive heat can actually cause damage to the ductwork mainly in the form of leaks. Any leaks to the ducts will affect the warming up of the house as the furnace has to work twice as hard to cover for the escaped air. This will shoot your energy bill up unprecedentedly if not fixed. 

Furnaces with a higher efficiency rating may not be suitable to the attic

Condensing furnaces are high-efficiency furnaces that must not be placed in unconditioned environments such as the attic.

The moisture that proceeds as a result of placing such a furnace in the attic can freeze when exposed to exceptionally colder temperatures and in turn damage the equipment.

Only attics that are in liveable condition can house high-efficiency furnaces and that too when there is an HVAC in excellent condition.

Is it a good idea to put the furnace in the attic?

Judging by the pros and cons of placing the furnace in the attic, it is easy to see why most people place it on lower levels of their houses. However, this verdict is not definite and the condition of the house or the attic itself has to be assessed before a decision can be made.

There are also factors such as lowered efficiency and increased energy bills. If you are okay with these then it is a good idea for you to install the furnace in the attic.

Added to this is the fact that putting the furnace up there means an added responsibility of having to check on it from time to time and if you already have an HVAC system in place then you have to keep changing the filters regularly as well.

Is it safe to put a furnace in the attic?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to put the furnace in the attic. In Fact, it is safer because if you think about it the attic is less accessible than basements and garages and this in itself is great because touching the furnace when it’s running may injure the unsuspecting person.

Usually a separate space or closet has to be built to enclose the furnace inside and thus is made inaccessible to the reach of people but many homes have little children and pets who are none too aware of safety and hazard.

Besides the above consideration, there is also the possibility of flooding from which the furnace must be protected at all costs, and the best way to do that is to place it at the highest point in your house. If however, the flood levels have managed to reach the attic then it can be safely assumed that the furnace getting flooded is the least of your worries.

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Final Words

Although the matter is subjective, scales seem to tip in favor of not placing the furnace in the attic.

The best way to evaluate whether this option is right for you is to get a professional opinion.

There is nothing better than that. They will take into consideration all the factors before coming to a decision that will suit both your house and yourself perfectly.

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