It seems like everything has become “highly efficient” over the past decade. From your microwave to your car, most technology has become advanced enough to save you money on bills and lower your carbon footprint. Currently, there’s a huge push to also make furnaces and other home appliances more energy efficient, but is all the hype worth it?
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A high-efficiency furnace may be worth it if you’re looking to lower your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint. High-efficiency furnaces tend to be more expensive than regular furnaces, so if you want to stay below a certain budget, you may consider going in a different direction.
In general, high-efficiency furnaces are huge cost savers in the long run and are a greener choice for your home.
They’ll also typically have more fees upfront and may be complicated to install, depending on how your home is configured. Below, I’ll further discuss the advantages and disadvantages of investing in a high-efficiency furnace.
When is Getting a High-Efficiency Furnace Worth It?
There comes a time in every homeowner’s life where you must make some choices. Whether you should go with the newest trends or stick to tried-and-true methods is up to your discretion, but making an educated decision is preferable to both going with what you know and following the hype.
As you inspect your home energy system, you may be wondering if it’s time to upgrade to a high-efficiency furnace or to stick with the one you already have installed.
You may even be wondering if a high-efficiency furnace would even be considered an “upgrade” or if it’s worth the cost.
Getting a high-efficiency furnace is worth it when you want to reduce your carbon footprint and save some money on your energy bills in the future. The upfront cost will be higher, but you’ll end up saving money in the long run because high-efficiency furnaces usually lower energy bills.
Whether or not a high-efficiency energy system is worth it will depend on a few factors because every home has different needs.
Depending on the size of your home, the climate where you live, and your current heating system, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of a high-efficiency furnace for your specific situation.
It’s especially important to consider the system you already have in your home before deciding what’s truly the most energy-efficient option for you.
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How High-Efficiency Furnaces Work?
Furnaces are one of the most common heating systems in US homes. They use natural gasses to heat your home through air ducts. More efficient versions of furnaces are not only cheaper to maintain, but they also come with a wide variety of additional features.
Typically, they’ll have a second heat exchanged to store fuel gasses in, have sealed combustion, and run at an AUE of 80%.
Less efficient versions will be smaller and have no ignitor flame, and the most inefficient furnaces will have a continuous pilot light and run at only 70% or lower AUE.
As mentioned above, a higher efficiency model doesn’t necessarily mean the most energy-efficient solution for your home. If you’re wondering how this could be, you can think of it in smaller terms.
While an air conditioner would be efficient in a home in a Florida mansion for cooling purposes, a simple fan may do fine in a bedroom in North Dakota.
This is because the climate in North Dakota is much cooler, and the bedroom would take less effort to cool. Though an air conditioner is typically the most energy-efficient way to cool a home, it isn’t the only way.
Furnaces can either be one stage, two-stage, or modular in their design. Each stage has a different way of blowing out air, either doing so at a high temperature only, switching between a high and low temperature, or going micro and doing the exact amount of heat needed to get your home up to your thermostat preference.
Your furnace may be doing a more energy-efficient job if it’s a two-stage device than if you were to install a one-stage high-efficiency heater.
Read: Furnace Noise Problems
Pros of Getting a High-Efficiency Furnace
If you’ve determined your home may be a good fit for a high-efficiency furnace and you’re willing to dish out the funds, there are numerous benefits.
High-efficiency furnaces typically cost you less over their lifetime, though the initial installation cost can be much higher.
Because you’re using less energy to do the same job in your home, your energy bills will decrease.
They’re also typically easy to pair with your thermostat and give you a wider range of temperature control features. Being in charge of the temperature of your house may make you and your family feel more comfortable.
Of course, the green nature of high-efficiency furnaces is one of its most favorable properties. One of the biggest selling points of a high-efficiency furnace is its impact on carbon emissions.
Finding more energy-efficient appliances reduces your carbon footprint and lowers the number of greenhouse gasses we emit as a nation.
Lastly, high-efficiency furnaces usually make less noise and are great for air quality. Having great air quality is beneficial for those living with asthma, those with allergies, and those just trying to improve their respiratory health overall.
A less noisy furnace also means no disturbances in the night preventing you from getting a good night of sleep.
Cons of Getting a High-Efficiency Furnace
One of the most prevalent disadvantages of going high-efficiency is the upfront cost of installation.
While a high-efficiency furnace will save you money on energy bills, getting one put into your home can be costly. Not only will you have to pay for the furnace, but your home may also need some renovation to fit the furnace in.
For this reason, if you’re staying in a home short-term or just renovating a place you’ll eventually want to rent out or sell. Therefore, investing in a high-efficiency furnace might not provide you with a cost-saving benefit.
It could be a selling point of the home you can cash in on, but you won’t see the long-term energy bill savings. If you’re flipping homes, this might be something to consider.
Additionally, as mentioned before, a high-efficiency model doesn’t mean high-efficiency for everyone. If you have a smaller home and live in a warmer climate, you may find that your current system works perfectly fine.
How to Determine if You Need a High Efficiency Furnace?
The efficiency of a furnace will depend a lot on the climate you live in, the size of your house, and how your ductwork is configured. When considering a high-efficiency replacement, you’ll also want to think about your priorities.
If a lower carbon footprint and less energy consumption are on your list, then a high-efficiency furnace will probably be a good fit.
That said, high-efficiency furnaces are typically pretty expensive and can require some costly renovations.
If it seems like it would save you money long term, you’ll have to think about the upfront fees you’re going to pay to get it installed and whether or not that’s feasible for your budget.
If your furnace shows signs of being ready to get replaced anyway, you might consider just putting in a high-efficiency furnace rather than doing a short-term repair.
A few short-term repairs might end up costing you the same, if not more than a new furnace. As mentioned above, a new high-efficiency model may save you money in the long term, too.
Choosing between a low-efficiency furnace and a high-efficiency alternative will be an easier process if you determine what your priorities are and assess your current system.
It’s usually worthwhile to bring a professional in to check out your current furnace and see what they think about its efficiency. If you’re still unsure, you can always get a second opinion.
Most communities have an energy office, the professionals of which can give you an unbiased opinion about what will be the right choice for your home and the environment.