Is a High-Efficiency Furnace Worth It?

if you're buying a home, check the HVACIf you are you looking to buy a new furnace, you may be wondering is a high-efficiency furnace worth it? At Aspen Creek Heating and Air, we think it may be worth your while to have a high-efficiency furnace professionally installed, but it depends on several factors, and not all homes and circumstances will require one. So, read on to learn which options are right for your situation.

How is efficiency measured?

As you know, a furnace produces heat using energy and delivers it to your home, making it toasty warm. The more heat it can provide with a given amount of power, the better. This is known as “efficiency.” All furnace manufacturers strive to produce appliances that burn fuel efficiently while requiring minimal energy to run the blowers that circulate the heat to the house.

Ask yourself where to put the furnace (location), what are your energy efficiency goals and budget, and attributes of the home, such as the number of rooms, where you spend most of your time, and general layout of the home. These are all critical factors when deciding on which furnace will be right for you, and your HVAC professional should talk through everything with you.

Most importantly, you want to look at the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). These are generally 80% in a standard efficiency furnace, 90% in a high-efficiency furnace, and 95% in the newest and best gas-powered furnaces. Each furnace rating also typically operates somewhat differently from each other. An 80% furnace rating uses open combustion which sucks air from the surrounding area, a 95% furnace rating uses sealed combustion which takes air from the outdoors via a PVC pipe. So why does this make any difference? Well, here are the reasons:

Cost: If your furnace is in a vented attic or crawl space, you probably won’t make up the difference in cost when you go from an 80% to a 95% unit. In your vented attic, that combustion air is already there for your 80% furnace to use, but if you opt for the 95% high-efficiency furnace, you’ll need to create an airway for combustion air to enter the unit, making installation a tricky situation and also bringing the cost up. This is something to think about if you are on a limited budget.

Safety: If your furnace is in a vented area, the gases produced by the combustion process should not pose a safety issue, however, if your furnace is in a sealed attic or space, open combustion will certainly pose a problem. It’s much better to be safe than sorry by installing a 95% furnace with a concentric vent that sucks in air and expels exhaust. Your HVAC specialist will know all about these safety measures.

So you see, location and safety go hand in hand, and it should be one of the first areas to look into when determining whether a high-efficiency furnace is worth it or not. The next items for you to consider are the different stages of heat: one stage, two stages, modulating – also airflow: on/off or variable speed.

Single Stage Furnace:

These only have one setting, which would be full blast, blowing hot air into your home using the maximum capacity possible.

Two-Stage Furnace:

These have two different speeds, full blast and a slower setting, which is approximately 65% of the furnace’s capacity. In general, the slower speed is perfect for heating your home and doesn’t require as much energy as a single-stage furnace. It is also quieter.

While this may sound confusing, it really is not. Both 80% and 95% furnaces often come as single-stage or two-stage units. 80% furnace with two stages of heat will keep your power bills lower than a 95% furnace with just one stage. Some 95% furnaces are even equipped with a modulating gas valve which will regulate and match your heating needs.

Variable Speed Airflow:

Standard furnaces will offer full blast airflow, but no variety in speed options. The furnaces with variable speed airflow control the amount of hot air that enters your home at any given time much more efficiently, making them a much better option.

What if your furnace exhausts into a chimney?

No problem, you may want to consider a 95% high-efficiency furnace with a new exhaust vent, especially if the chimney liner is worn because you do not want to create a situation where exhaust gases seep into your home. If you opt to replace your model with another 80% rated furnace, consider installing a new chimney liner for safety.

Either way, when replacing an older furnace, you will benefit from better energy efficiency all around, no matter what unit you choose from within the guidelines. Today’s furnaces are built to run with the latest technologies and energy saving capabilities, making them run cleaner, safer and smarter for today’s families of the future.

Here is an easy way to calculate your savings:

You know what you are currently paying for heating, and what your current furnace’s efficiency rating is, so then you can figure just how much you’ll save by buying a high-efficiency furnace. Here’s an example:

  • You are spending $1000 per year on heating with an 80% efficient furnace
  • So, you’re getting $800 worth of heat and $200 worth of waste
  • If you are opting for a 95% efficient unit, find your savings percentage by dividing the increase in efficiency by the new furnace’s efficiency: 15 divided by 95.
  • Your savings will be the yearly bill multiplied by the savings percentage, so approximately $158.

A word about brand names:

The biggest differences between the most expensive and least expensive furnace models come down to energy efficiency, comfort, and warranties. So don’t be sucked into buying the most popular brand name or the most expensive furnace on the market. Do your research, ask about warranty coverage, which is very important, and be sure it is the right fit for your particular home and budget.

So, if you are wondering is a high-efficiency furnace worth it? We hope this answered your questions on the subject. Be sure to get a professional opinion from Aspen Creek Heating and Air today. Our experts will help you understand what unit is right for your home and get your new furnace installed in a jiffy.

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