Keeping Your Home Cool during the Sweltering, Summer Months

Considering High-Efficiency, Multiple Stage, or Variable-Speed Blower Furnace Options

by Anthony Graves

Consumers are spoiled for choice when it comes to furnace installation. Modern furnaces offer numerous advanced features and technology that help them utilize their fuel far more efficiently than older units. The flip side to having so much choice is that choosing a furnace can be confusing, especially with so many potentially unfamiliar terms involved.

If you're looking at high-efficiency units, you've probably noticed AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) ratings, along with features such as 2-stage burners and variable-speed blowers. When it comes to efficiency, you want the most bang-for-your-buck, but how can you decide what's best for your home? Keep reading to learn about three improved efficiency options to consider when choosing a furnace for your home.

How Much Do AFUE Ratings Matter?

AFUE is a useful, relatively easy-to-understand metric. The AFUE on a furnace tells you what percentage of its fuel converts into heat for your home. The remaining energy exits the system as waste heat in the exhaust stream. Typical modern furnaces include standard efficiency 80% AFUE models and high-efficiency 95% models.

AFUE often has a significant impact on your utility bills, but it doesn't tell the whole story. For example, this metric cannot account for losses due to ductwork or poor insulation in your home. Likewise, units that are undersized or oversized for a structure may work inefficiently, no matter how high their AFUE rating might be.

You should always consider the AFUE rating of a furnace, but keep in mind that it's only a starting point when measuring efficiency.

Should You Consider 2-Stage Burner or Variable Speed Units?

In addition to higher fuel efficiency, modern furnaces may have two other features that reduce utility costs: 2-stage burners and variable-speed blowers. Both options help to maintain more consistent heating in your home. A 2-stage burner can run in a low-heat mode when necessary, while a variable-stage blower can alter the strength of air traveling through your ducts.

2-stage burners are an excellent efficiency upgrade since they allow your furnace to use less fuel when the demand for heating is low. As a result, a 2-stage furnace may help you save money if you live in an area where the temperatures don't fall too low. Variable speed blowers offer similar advantages since they can run at slower speeds on warmer days.

Which Offers the Best Efficiency For Your Home?

If your goal is energy efficiency, a high-efficiency 95% (or better) AFUE furnace is a superior option. The added benefits for 2-stage burners or variable-speed blowers will vary depending on your usage cases. For example, they may pay off more quickly if you find that you rarely need to run your furnace at full power.

An experienced HVAC contractor can help you understand how these options fit into your specific needs and budget. Working with your installer to choose the best furnace for your home will guarantee that you can select an efficient and affordable option.