What to Look for in an Efficient Furnace

September 21, 2018

ThermometerWith fall rapidly upon us, and regular HVAC checkups happening, many homeowners may be looking at an equipment upgrade or replacement. If that’s you, considering the efficiency of your options is one of the important factors that comes into play. When it’s time to make an upgrade, here’s what you should know.

When’s it Time?

Though the final deciding factor here can vary from household to household, there are a few general indicators that you should pay attention to. If your furnace is older and seems to be nickel-and-dime-ing you to death – ie. too many repairs, too often – the writing is probably on the wall that it’s time to think about an upgrade. When you can no longer trust your furnace to be consistent and reliable in its duties, if your monthly heating costs are simply too high, regardless of your system’s age, if the heater runs for a very long time in order to get you comfortable – these are all good reasons to look closer at newer, more efficient options. Among other reasons some of our customers have mentioned is a desire to lessen their carbon footprint, have a lighter impact on our environment.

Of course, the only rock-solid reason for someone needing to replace an existing heater is safety. If it’s been determined that a furnace (or boiler, or any type of heater) is unsafe to operate, posing a danger to the occupants of a home or business, then the time to replace the system is NOW.

AFUE Rating

The number one thing to be aware of when it comes to upping your home’s efficiency with a more efficient furnace purchase is the AFUE rating. It’s something we’ve mentioned before, but for those who may be seeing these letters together for the first time or are looking for a refresher, here you go. AFUE, or annual fuel utilization efficiency, is the guiding light of ratings for the efficiency of most home heating equipment, such as furnaces and boilers. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the furnace. Essentially, the number equates to this: for every 100 BTUs of energy a unit puts out, the percentage indicates how many of those BTUs are useful heating units for your home. So a 90% AFUE rated unit will output 90 useful heating units for every 100 BTUs expended.

Nowadays, there’s a big push for being more environmentally friendly, and some municipalities are even requiring 90+ AFUE rated equipment in new home construction. When it comes down to it, the AFUE rating is what will determine how much of the energy your unit puts out is getting wasted, and how much of it is going toward the job you’re expecting it to do – keeping your home toasty warm even in the dead of winter.

Be Aware of Enhanced Performance Options

Of course, traditional furnaces aren’t the only options homeowners have these days. Two of the most popular alternatives that further increase your comfort and your system’s efficiency are two-stage and variable output units. Two-stage central heating systems allow your unit to produce less heat on milder days and kick out more power on colder days, as opposed to a same-old, single-stage furnace that only runs full blast or off. Two-stage furnaces, often not a difficult system upgrade, run much quieter and more consistently on ‘low fire’ under a lot of conditions – great news for your furnace filter and central humidifier, giving them more time to do their jobs – only kicking in to full output only when outdoor temps make it necessary.

Variable output units take the multi-stage concept and fully apply it in providing the ultimate comfort system: ‘intelligent’ furnaces and boilers that adjust their performance to match the precise needs of your home through a broad range of operating conditions. Variable output units run from approximately 35% to 100% full output capacity, automatically adjusting heat output in increments as small as 1% – making them the perfect choice for homeowners who want to have the most complete and consistent control over the temperature in their home. Like two-stage systems, variable output equipment often runs in much quieter and longer heat cycles, using a minimum of electricity, while allowing your furnace filter and your humidifier more time to do their jobs even better!

Two-stage furnaces are available in both the 80% and the 90%-plus efficiency ranges, while variable output furnaces are only available in the 90-plus range, and are typically rated 95% AFUE or higher (top of the line equipment). If you have the budget available for one of these more advanced systems – with great options in either efficiency range – they offer a wider range of control and an increased ability to truly dial in your home’s comfort, while still allowing you to be efficient with your energy use.

Who’s Installing the Equipment

Another important part of ensuring you have the most efficient system for your home and comfort needs is choosing the right installer for the job. Not all installers are created equal, and just as you do your research on equipment before choosing, you should also do your homework on installers as well. Some of your choice will come down to preference and how you feel when you’re doing research, but a few things that you’d be well advised to consider placing on your non-negotiable list are: an A+ company rating with the BBB, and BBB membership, NATE certified techs and lead installers, a company that’s fully insured, that pulls permits for installations, and who has membership in respected trade organizations. You want to know that the people you’re trusting to install and maintain your high efficiency heating equipment take their jobs as seriously as you take your home’s comfort.

Whether your motivation is lower heating bills, greater reliability, a greener lifestyle, or more control over your home’s comfort levels, there are great high efficiency options out there for your home’s heating system. When you’re considering your options, and need a trusted voice to help you determine what’s best for you and your home, give us a call.