If you’re looking to install new countertops in your kitchen, you’re not alone – 95% of homeowners looking to renovate say that “kitchen countertops are their top priority this year”.
This consumer buying guide covers top 15 countertop options, along with each material’s pros and cons, and the average cost to install.
What it is: You probably already know! Granite is a natural stone countertop material which has been highly prized in the kitchen for many years. It is available in a wide variety of colors and blends well with many different flooring and wall designs.
What it costs: Granite can be expensive. Prices between $85 and $175 per square foot installed are not uncommon, depending on the size, color, thickness, and pattern of the granite slab, manufacturer/supplier and installer, and where you live.
Pros: Because granite is highly sought after and considered beautiful, the countertops will add non-depreciating value to your home. It is non-porous and sanitary, heat-resistant, and easy to clean. It does not get scratched easily.
Cons: Granite is very difficult to remove, and should be considered a “forever” upgrade, because you may have to rip out the entire counter if you get sick of it. It is expensive when compared to other common countertop materials.
It is also labor-intensive because it is so heavy, which means that it may require additional structural support than what your counters already offer. It must be sealed roughly every 10 years or so to prevent staining, and it can crack if hit by a large, heavy object.
What it is:
Not to be confused with countertops labeled “quartz” – which are a kind of manmade composite, consisting of about 90% quartz and 10% resin – quartzite is a relatively new solid-stone alternative to granite or engineered quartz countertops.
Quartzite is a naturally occurring rock that starts its life as a kind of sandstone and evolves into quartzite when subjected to heat and pressure. The resulting white or gray rock tends to have beautiful streaks of color, giving it the look of marble while maintaining the toughness of granite.
A word of caution, however – the term tends to be used somewhat loosely by manufacturers, so it is important to check with your supplier to find out if your quartzite is “hard” or “soft” quartzite, which will affect how durable the material is, and how often routine sealing must be done to care for it.
What it costs: $85 to $150 per square foot installed, depending on the type of quartzite you choose and where you live.
Pros: The neutral colors of quartzite look nice against almost any kitchen color scheme. Its natural swirl patterns lend a clean, modern, organic look. It is somewhat heat resistant (although protection should be used if you intend to leave a hot pot sitting for a while).
Did you know? Quartzite is also harder than granite, making it a little more durable.
The best 2021 solar water heaters for whole-house residential use (not for pools, hot tubs or camping shower bags!) are available in two types, active and passive models.
Active vs. Passive Solar Water Heaters
The first major decision you have is which system type to select – and your local weather and climate are going to be a major factor.
In short, you can install either active or passive system in a warm climate, but where winter freezes are possible, an active system that employs antifreeze is essential. — These are indirect systems.
Here are more details describing each type:
Passive solar water heaters rely on water pressure from a municipal water supply or a well pump to move heated water from the tank through your plumbing. They are easier to install and cost significantly less. Heated water rises into the storage tank through convection/buoyancy in thermosiphon systems or it flows to the storage tanks in integrated models.
Active solar water heaters have circulation pumps circulating antifreeze plus more control features to regulate temperature and protect the unit from freezing in cold weather.
Direct vs. Indirect Water Heating
Direct systems heat potable water sent directly to a storage tank or tankless water heater for use as domestic hot water – the water coming from your hot water taps or connected to a dishwasher or clothes washer.
Indirect systems circulate antifreeze, usually propylene glycol, that is heated in the solar collectors. The heated liquid is pumped through a coil of pipe in a hot water storage tank or through a heat exchanger that transfers heat to the potable water in the tank.
Controlling the climate of your home during chilly months requires a heating source and way to distribute that energy. A modern gas furnace can be your best option for a home heating source. Selecting the ideal furnace for your home can be done in a few steps that we’ll guide you through.
New Gas Furnace Cost Installed
For a fully installed furnace, plan to spend between $4,100 and $7,500 on average. The furnace units themselves are usually priced between $1,000 and $2,500, but a professional installation with the contractor obtaining the building permit and getting the completed job inspected is almost always in your best interest, for reasons we’ll explain below.
The current national average (80% range) is about $5,500-$6,500 for a new gas furnace fully installed. This includes any necessary building permits and inspections, a new gas furnace unit and standard supplies, professional installation, and a typical 5-year to 10-year workmanship warranty from the installer.
Most HVAC contractors typically charge between $50 to $95 per hour for their work, and may include an assistant, or a team of three to complete the job faster. Their helpers often cost $50+ an hour as well when you consider the worker’s comp on top of their base pay.
Professional Installation generally requires 10-man hours at a minimum, but can easily go up to 15-20 hours due to many reasons, usually related to adjusting or updating the forced air system, providing additional ductwork, removing and disposing of the old boiler/furnace, removing old radiators, etc.
If significant updates are needed to your per-existing ductwork or if there is no ductwork currently in place, this can add anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 to the total cost of the job.
Typically, it will cost under $10,000 for new ductwork or modifications to the existing ductwork, and often these additional charges are only steep if/when converting from say an electric furnace or oil boiler to a gas furnace, which requires new ductwork for forced air heating to work.
Other costs that may be included are removal and disposal of an older furnace (about $500-$1,000 extra), and miscellaneous materials needed to complete the installation.
Gas Furnace Prices for Top Brands
If you look just at the Energy Star list, which shows the many models on the market that have their stamp of approval (for being high in energy efficiency), you’ll see a good 30 brands. At least one of our top recommendations is not on their list, even though their models obtain an impressive 98 AFUE. Go figure!
Another tricky thing you may not realize is that many popular HVAC manufacturers normally make more than one brand of gas furnaces, with each brand typically falling into either the basic, mid-range, or premium product category.
For instance, Carrier is considered a premium brand with reputation for reliability, while Payne is considered “budget friendly.” Yet, the technology among the devices is nearly identical, although warranties are not. 😉
Here are the Top Five Gas Furnace Brands:
1. Goodman – these are made by the same company that manufactures the more popular Amana brand. Goodman offers basic models that come in at 80 AFUE and high efficiency models with up to 98 AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency).
Warranties range from 20 years (for basic models) to lifetime (for premium models). You may not find the latest and greatest features in their lineup, but the ones we’ve mentioned are available. And most importantly, they are affordable, ranging from as low as $500 (for their electric furnaces) to $2,500 for the highest-end premium (gas) model.
You can reasonably plan to spend $1,100 to $1,900 for a good quality, midrange Goodman furnace, not including the installation.
2. Day & Night – These furnaces are made by the same company behind the more premium Carrier and Bryant brands. While the external structure of the furnace units may look different from the other brands made by the same manufacturer, the inner technology is nearly identical! 😉
Similar to Goodman, top models can achieve up to 98 AFUE, come with a 20-year warranty, and have features that rival premium brands, such as modulating heat.
Like Goodman, Day & Night lacks on reputation, but not on quality. You can reasonably plan to spend $1,000 to $1,800 for a Day & Night furnace, not including the installation.
3. York is a long-established brand. York also makes Coleman, and Luxaire furnaces.
York warranties range from 5 years to lifetime depending on the model. They have multiple offerings in their furnace lineup – ranging from 80 to 98 AFUE.
Tip: Never buy a furnace that comes with less than 10-year warranty.
York basic model is affordable at around $1,800, but their mid-grade and premium models jump to $1,800 or more.
York furnaces have a reputation for having noisier than average equipment, though their technology has evolved to include noise dampening features.
4. Trane and American Standard are sister products. Both are on the premium side of brand names.
Trane is considered a top choice on the commercial product line of furnaces, and thus their technological prowess is well known. For residential offerings, they are pricier than our top two choices.
Trane AFUE goes up to 97.3, while they never skimp on features in their lineup. You can plan to pay $1,500 and up for a quality Trane furnace, not including installation.
5. Carrier rounds off our list based mostly on their reputation for reliability. They are another premium brand and arguably overpriced considering what Day & Night is offering.
Carrier AFUE ranges from 80 to 98, and their features are essentially identical to the Day & Night offerings. Still, there are many thousands of satisfied Carrier customers who enjoy having a unit that will last 20+ years.
Plan to spend $1,500 and up for Carrier furnaces, not including the cost of professional installation.
One final note, you can plan to spend more for the installation on premium brands than what you would normally spend for the installation of a new gas furnace from more affordable brands.
Part of this is the prestige factor that comes with being a ‘certified brand seller’. The market for premium furnaces allows for greater markup on those units.
Thus, a basic Day & Night furnace such as Performance 80 may cost between $3,000 and $4,100 installed. For comparison, the lowest price you’ll likely find for the Carrier basic model furnace installed, would be between $4,000 and $5,500 or higher.