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High efficiency furnaces can be difficult to install in townhomes, as reported in the Toronto Star

A recent article in the Toronto Star reports how some homeowners are finding high efficiency furnaces very difficult to install in their homes. This is particularly a concern for townhouses and homes where the furnace is located near the centre of the basement.

Since 2010, all new furnaces imported into Canada must be at least 90% efficient. These furnaces require new venting and drainage systems which can be difficult to install in some homes.

The new venting must be run outdoors to a location which is not too close to any doors or windows, as this may allow the exhaust gases to re-enter the home. The article notes that this is often a problem in townhouses, especially middle units. It was also a problem for one homeowner, Bruce Meacock, who had a furnace located in the centre of his basement. In order to install a new furnace, he would have had to relocate his furnace and reconfigure the ductwork, at a cost of about $15,000.

Signs a high efficiency furnace may be hard to install in your home include:

  • Your furnace is not located near an exterior wall (it is located near the centre of your home)
  • Your furnace is located near an exterior wall, but there are doors or windows nearby
  • Your furnace room does not have a functional drain
  • Your furnace is located in a closet or very small room (it may be difficult to fit a high efficiency furnace in)

If a high efficiency furnace is difficult to install in your home, one option is to install a tankless water heater with a hydronic air handler.  This was the option chosen by the homeowner in the article. Tankless water heaters are mainly designed to provide hot tap water. But they can be hooked up to a hydronic air handler, which can transfer heat from hot water into a home’s ductwork, and thus replace a furnace.


Beware of  contractors who suggest hooking up a hydronic air handler to a regular hot water tank. This is not allowed by code, as it is highly energy inefficient and will likely be hazardous to your health as it will require an open store of lukewarm water which may become contaminated with bacteria.

To learn more about your options for installing a new furnace, visit our furnaces page.

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