DIY furnace installation

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by Dorrough, Sep 9, 2009.

  1. Dorrough

    Dorrough New Member

    Messages:
    30
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    Thought I'd give everyone a good laugh. Except I'm serious: we currently heat the house with a good-sized Hearthstone wood stove, but it cools down overnight and takes a long time to warm the house if we've been out. So we want to install a furnace in the basement (propane, forced air). There are places out there that will design the system for a fee, and rebate part of the fee if you buy the furnace.

    Installing the thing seems difficult but possible. Installing the ductwork seems like a lot of work. And I'm sure there are design issues that I can't imagine. Where is a good place to start with the research? Is there a good money-saving combination of work to hire a professional for vs work we could do ourselves? If money was no object, we would hire someone to do this, but it is an object, and winter is coming on ... it would be nice to be warm. We have all the wood we could ever burn, but there are times when we would need a furnace.
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Check local code to see if you are allowed to have a propane furnace in a basement. Check to see if you are allowed to do work like this yourself. For sure, no matter where you live, a permit is a MUST.

    Installing duct work is just one of those trades that looks like anyone can do it, but experience and training make a one day job out of what will take you several, and look like spaghetti.

    First, you have the basement to work in, and floor registers or low wall registers are ideal for heat. But balancing the flow and air distribution are done by sizing the ducts, and sometimes with dampers. You could probably find on line resources to determine how many BTU are needed in each room, how many CFM that would need, and how to size the duct accordingly. But a contractor will have all that in his laptop.

    Get a copy of the National Fuel Gas Code book. It is not expensive, and is available on google or a good technical bookstore. It will show you how to calculate gas pipe sizing, and how to make the flue. Both of these are critical construction details which can kill people or burn down the house, so be careful.
  3. Dorrough

    Dorrough New Member

    Messages:
    30
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    Hey, thanks

    That's great info. As a "lay person" it's hard to know what things are do-able and needs help. I found out I can do tile floors just fine - as well any I have seen. But I wouldn't try to set my own arm if it was broken; I'd go to a doctor.

    Everyone out here has propane because we don't have access to natural gas. Got lots of neighbors with propane furnaces in basements, so I expect it's code. And you don't need a permit for anything in new construction except the main permit to build the house in the first place. They do want to inspect the basement drain before you pour the concrete, want to inspect the septic, want to inspect the electric before you close up the walls. That's it! I used to live in California where you needed a permit throw the mop water into the yard - out here in southern Indiana it's more relaxed.

    To do work yourself you have to have the can-do spirit. That means learning to do something you don't know how to do, and there are always stumpers along the way, problems you don't know how to solve, and you have to have persistence to figure it out. You don't just give up the first time you are faced with two pipes of different diameters that you have to join. I have to say that installing our own furnace seems like one of those "broken arm" things. Yes, we could probably do it, with help from someone who knows how to design it. But there are so many things that seem they could go wrong - just in your reply were some I had never even thought of. How many other things are there that I won't think of, and that are so obvious to a person who does this every day that they aren't written up on line?

    I guess there are jobs that fit into the "Sure you can do this yourself - go for it" category (tile floor, rebuilding carburetor) and jobs that fit into the "Be careful, you could kill yourself" category (replace electrical subpanel, replace brakes). (I have replaced my own brakes, but that was on a VW Rabbit and I had the "Idiot's Guide" which was just right for a mechanical idiot like me.)

    Furnace sounds like a "you could kill yourself" job. Is there a way to make it safe? If we go with one of the online sellers who do the design work (duct size etc.) for us and just do the installation ourselves, does that move it into the "go for it" category?
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2009
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