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Upflow vs Downflow Furnace: What’s the Difference?

Upflow vs Downflow Furnace: What’s the Difference?

Furnaces can often be classified according to the direction in which they blow conditioned air. All furnaces have a blower. Whether you’re trying to warm or cool your home, the blower will run. It’s a motorized fan that forces conditioned air into the ductwork so that it can be distributed throughout your home.

There are upflow furnaces and downflow furnaces, however. Both electric and gas furnaces are available in these upflow and downflow styles. What’s the difference between these two types of furnaces exactly?

What Is an Upflow Furnace?

An upflow furnace is a type of furnace that blows conditioned air upward. As air enters the bottom of an upflow furnace, it will be exposed to the heating element or heat exchanger. The heated air will then travel upwards where it enters the ductwork. Upflow furnaces are specifically designed to move conditioned air – both heated and cooled air – upwards.

What Is a Downflow Furnace?

A downflow furnace is a type of furnace that blows conditioned air downward. Downflow furnaces consist of the same basic parts as upflow furnaces. They simply move conditioned air in a different direction.

Stagnant air will enter a downflow furnace at the top. After being warmed or cooled, the newly conditioned air will then travel downward. It will move from the top of the downflow furnace to the bottom, at which point it will enter the ductwork.

Differences Between Upflow and Downflow Furnaces

The way in which a furnace is designed to blow conditioned air will determine whether it’s an upflow or downflow furnace. Upflow furnaces move conditioned air upward, whereas downflow furnaces move conditioned air downward.

Because they move conditioned air in different directions, upflow and downflow furnaces don’t perform the same. In warm climates, including the Southeast, upflow furnaces are typically more efficient at cooling homes. With an upflow furnace, the cool air produced your air conditioning system will travel upward. Upflow furnaces are typically installed in the basement or crawlspace, which is cooler than attics where downflow furnaces are typically installed.

Upflow furnaces are also easier to install than downflow furnaces.  Most downflow furnaces are installed in the attic. Attics, of course, often lack stable flooring. Even if your home has an attic, it may not have suitable flooring to accommodate a downflow furnace – at least not without making modifications to it. Basements are more likely to feature solid flooring, which is ideal for a downflow furnace.