Selecting The Right Furnace
How to Select the Furnace That’s Right for Your Home
Purchasing a new furnace is a large decision. With a life expectancy of 15 years (if regularly maintained), it’s one that we only make 2 or 3 times in our lifetime. An efficient furnace plays an important role in keeping your home warm and cozy during the winter. But how do you know what type of furnace is best for you? Explore the types of furnaces below, including the pros and cons of each, to help you decide what’s the best fit for your family and your home.
Gas furnaces represent the most popular type and come in three forms:
Single-Stage Gas Furnaces:
- The least expensive gas furnace you can buy.
- The gas flows at only one rate, High as it’s either on, or off. The furnace essentially turns on when the thermostat calls for heat and runs at maximum capacity until the temperature is met.
- In moderate temperatures the system “Short Cycles” meaning it cycles on and off frequently, this leads to inefficient heating and can lead to areas of the home that never get to temperature.
- Operate at around 80% AFUE (Annual fuel utilization efficiency)
Two-Stage Gas Furnaces:
- Adjusts the flow of gas from low or high for better efficiency.
- Unit runs longer in moderate temperatures allowing for a more even and complete heating of the home.
- More expensive up front, over the long run, the two-stage furnace will provide a better heating experience and save you money over the long run.
- Two stage furnaces operate at around 90% AFUE
Modulating Gas Furnaces:
- Most precise regulation of heat available; can maintain temperature up to ½ degree of the setting on your thermostat.
- Furnace operates with finesse to reduce temperature fluctuations, providing consistent temperatures, and usually quieter operations.
- Ideal for colder climates modulating furnaces are the costliest of the forced air furnaces.
- Modulating furnaces operate at an annual AFUE of around 90%+.
Also available are electric and Heat Pumps:
- Electric Furnaces: While not as economical as gas furnaces, electric furnaces are still popular. They heat air by moving it over electric coils and distributing the warmed air throughout your home.
- Heat Pump: A heat pump is a versatile, efficient cooling and heating system. Thanks to a reversing valve, a heat pump can change the flow of refrigerant and either heat or cool a home. Air is blown over an evaporator coil, transferring heat energy from the air to the refrigerant. The fuel and electricity efficiency are the biggest advantage of heat pumps. The disadvantages of the system are a higher cost, loss of effectiveness at temperatures below 6-7 degrees Celsius, and the requirement for annual maintenance.
The Federal Trade Commission requires all new furnaces display AFUE ratings so consumers can compare their efficiency. AFUE stands for the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency of the furnace. The AFUE represents the annual heat output of the furnace compared to the total annual energy consumed.
An AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy heats the home and the other 10% escapes. AFUE does not include any heat lost through the duct system.
Installing a properly-sized furnace is key to heating your home. In the case of furnaces, bigger does not always mean better. A furnace that is too big will waste money on fuel by producing heat you do not need. It also has the potential to super heat the first floor (where the thermostat is) extremely fast. This can lead to the furnace not running long enough to heat the entire home which will result in cold rooms. On the other hand, a furnace that’s too small will not have the power to consistently get the room to temperature.
Most furnaces are offered in 15,000-20,000 Btu increments, so you just need to get close in terms of sizing. If the furnace you selected is more than 10% below your heating requirement, we will suggest you go up to the next size. A little under sizing or over sizing is fine, just don't over size by more than about 20% of your heating requirement, or short cycling can occur which wastes energy and reduces your comfort.
Many factors determine the best size: square footage, ceiling height, number of windows, and insulation. For a precise calculation of the size of furnace you need, simply call for an in-house evaluation to determine the best size for your home.
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