Home Furnace: Why High-Efficiency is Important


Imagine what it was like centuries ago when the only way to keep warm during winter is to huddle in front of a fireplace. Today, most homes have a central heating system where all you need to do is to switch on a thermostat and you’ll be cozy throughout the season. Because it is so convenient, we often fail to appreciate the intricacies of how a heating system works. The only time you bother to look into the components of what keeps you warm during winter is when something is not right or you experience an issue.

A heating system consists of a home furnace which is the primary heating equipment for the system. A home furnace is often powered by natural gas, propane, electricity, or oil. Depending on where you are located in the country, the most common fuel source for furnaces is natural gas.

What is a home furnace?

Furnaces have been around since the ancient Greek and Roman eras. The earliest predecessors of the furnace we currently know are vastly different from the furnaces we know today. The technology has evolved greatly resulting in a convenient and advanced home appliance used in many homes. The principle of combusting some form of fuel to produce heat remains the fundamental working theory of a home furnace. The different kinds of home furnaces are:

• Single-stage furnace
• Two-stage furnace
• Modulating furnace

Electric and gas furnaces are the two most commonly used fuel-sources in homes around the country. Although electric furnaces are considered relatively safer, they are less efficient and more expensive to operate than gas furnaces.

Single-stage furnace

The operating principle of a single-stage furnace is very simple. There are only two settings which are off and on. When you turn on the thermostat, the furnace will run on full power and the furnace will automatically shut-off as the temperature in the room start to stabilize.

A single-stage home furnace does not offer the flexibility to change settings. The cycle of hot air on full blast repeats itself as soon as the room cools down again. As such, this process consumes too much energy and does not provide a stable temperature for the home.

Two-stage furnace

A two-stage furnace upgrades the limitations of a single-stage furnace. With this type of furnace, you won’t experience uneven heating cycles. You can adjust the furnace to produce two speeds of heat cycles. The high setting means the furnace is operating at 100% of its capacity while low setting reduces the furnace power to 60%. The lower setting is enough to provide a comfortable temperature in most climates. When the weather gets too cold, the full set will slowly kick in providing better heating.

If you combine a two-stage furnace with a humidifier, you will have better air filtration. A two-stage furnace also eliminates the excess noise created by a single-stage furnace because it is running on full power all the time. In general, a two-stage home furnace is better than a single-stage furnace in many aspects.

Modulating furnace

A more advanced type of home furnace, a modulating furnace allows you to regulate heat supplied as well as air velocity. The furnace is also capable of regulating indoor temperature in relation to the temperature outside.

Modulating furnaces are also considered more efficient than the other two types of home furnaces. Although it will cost you more to invest in a modulating furnace, the investment is worth in the long run because the higher efficiency of the furnace means you will save more on your energy bills.

The importance of choosing a high-efficiency furnace

In recent years, a lot of emphases is given to efficient heating and cooling. Aside from HVAC systems, most home appliances are manufactured according to strict guidelines of energy efficiency. The US Department of Energy announced in May 2013 that all home furnaces should have at least an 80% AFUE rating. But to consider a home furnace “high-efficiency”, the AFUE rating should be at least 90%. If your home furnace has an 80% AFUE rating, it is considered mid-efficiency only.

What are the benefits of a high-efficiency home furnace?

• Significant savings. Purchasing a new furnace can be expensive, but if you replace an old furnace with a new one with a higher efficiency rating, you are looking at energy savings of at least 30%.

• Longer life span. High-efficiency furnaces are built to have a higher resistance to chemical build-up. As long as it is maintained adequately, it will last longer than an ordinary home furnace. Most high-efficiency home furnaces also include a built-in system for removing moisture inside the heat exchanger.

• High-performance level. A new home furnace comes with advanced technology. You can expect the furnace to produce consistent heating while also eliminating noise.

• Better airflow. It follows that if you have a new home furnace and one that is also highly efficient, your home is heated uniformly. A new filter system will also effectively remove dust, mold, and other airborne impurities. Your family will breathe cleaner and healthier while also appreciating better heating.

• Environment-friendly. With a high-efficiency furnace, your home heating system will use only a third of the energy an old furnace consumes. As such, the furnace emits fewer carbon monoxide emissions while also conserving natural resources.

If your home furnace is an older model, perhaps it is about time to think about getting a new one installed. When looking at high-efficiency furnace models, you should also take into consideration the current fuel source used in your home. If retrofitting is not a viable option, you have to make sure that your new furnace has an AFUE rating of at least 90%.

Home furnace diagram: what are the components of a home furnace?

Regardless of the fuel, your home furnace runs on, the same working principle of forced air heating applies. The furnace heats air and the heated air gets distributed in internal ventilation systems using a blower or fan. In most cases, a home has a shared ventilation system for cooling and heating.

If you have a natural gas or propane gas-powered furnace, the first stage in the healing process starts when the pilot light ignites a series of burners inside the combustion chamber. The heat created then transfers into the heat exchanger which is responsible for heating the air that circulates around the ductwork.

If you have an electrically operated home furnace, the working principle is the same but instead of a pilot light, an electrical ignition starts the heating process. Instead of burners, the heating element contains conductive coils.
While it may appear that the heating process is simple and straightforward, it is important to keep in mind that each furnace and heating system consists of many moving parts intricately working together. Diagnosing a problem with your home furnace should be left to professional technicians to avoid causing further problems.

Is natural gas furnace more efficient?

Another point of discussion in choosing a furnace is the fuel source. The two most common options, electricity and natural gas are readily available all over the country. When choosing whether an electric furnace or a gas furnace is better, you have to take into account several factors such as cost, efficiency, and fuel source availability.

Natural gas furnaces are known to produce better and more powerful heat than an electric furnace. Aside from this, natural gas is cheaper than electricity. If you invest in a high-efficiency gas furnace, you will save more on your utility bills over time. Another advantage of a natural gas furnace is how it pairs well with an air conditioning system for year-round heating and cooling.

If you want a way to compare the cost of operating an electric furnace and natural gas furnace, you can use an online Residential Energy Calculator where you put in estimate numbers to determine how much it would cost to operate. This tool is useful in determining which choice is best for you and your family.

Home furnace maintenance: Keep your furnace in shape to optimize efficiency

Whether you have an electric or natural gas furnace, experts always emphasize the importance of regular furnace maintenance. Even if you have a high-efficiency furnace, the performance will decline over time if the ventilation and filter system gets blocked with dirt build-up. If you don’t want to worry about scheduling routine maintenance with an HVAC contractor, you can sign-up for a maintenance plan. A maintenance plan guarantees that an HVAC technician will check and clean your HVAC system at least twice a year. A maintenance plan also puts you on a preferential list where you don’t have to wait in line to get your heating system serviced.

If you need assistance with repairs, maintenance, and installation call Fischer Heating today. They are experts in HVAC servicing within the Seattle and Bellevue area ready to meet all your HVAC needs.

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