Do You Really Need A $10,000 Furnace? Probably not.
Deciding which type of furnace is right for your home is a pretty straightforward decision, at least it is when you have unbiased information about your options. The problem with the heating and air industry is that salespeople are trained to tell every customer they need to ‘invest’ in the most ultra high efficiency whiz-bang furnace with all the bells and whistles – regardless of whether it’s in the customer’s best interests or not.
So why does nearly every heating and air company teach their salespeople to do this? Because those ultra high-efficiency furnaces are also ultra expensive, and they generate higher profit margins for the company and bigger commissions for the salesperson.
A high-efficiency furnace can be a solid investment if you actually save enough money through lower utility bills to recoup the additional cost within a few years.
I have no problem recommending a high-end furnace to someone, IF they actually need one, and it will benefit them financially. But for the majority of people looking to replace their old furnace, it makes no financial sense to install the highest efficiency furnace you can buy.
So I decided to write a brief overview of the 4 most popular types of furnaces to give customers an idea of the options available to them besides the $7,000 – $10,000 furnace most salespeople will tell them they need. I’ll follow-up with a more in-depth look at each of the furnace models included here in a future post, but for now here’s the Cliff Notes version of the most popular furnace options…
80% Single-Stage Furnace:
I like to refer to this type of unit as a basic, workhorse furnace. Nationwide, it’s the most commonly installed furnace by a wide margin because it’s simply all the furnace most people need. With an efficiency rating of 80% when installed new, even this basic model will save you money over your old furnace.
If your current furnace is 15 years old, installing a new 80% efficient single-stage furnace can deliver approximately a 17% – 18% increase in efficiency.
For someone who’s current furnace is 20 years old, installing a new 80% efficient single-stage furnace can give them a 20% – 25% boost in energy efficiency over their old furnace.
If you’re wondering whether your current furnace is an 80% efficient model, you can tell by looking at the vent pipe. 80% efficient furnaces are easily identifiable by the round aluminum vent pipe that comes out of the top of the furnace near the front of the unit.
80% Efficient 2-Stage Variable Speed Furnace:
If you live in a 2-story home, or if parts of your home stay warmer or colder than the rest of the house, this unit is fantastic. You can expect an even greater boost in energy efficiency over your old furnace with this model since both the 2-stage and variable speed features contribute to using less energy to heat your home.
The variable speed feature will help keep every room in the house more comfortable in both the winter and the summer. The fan in this furnace continues to slowly circulate the air on every floor, which helps even out uneven temperatures if you do have rooms that stay warmer or colder than than the rest of the house.
If you’d like more in-depth information on how 2-stage heating and variable speed furnaces help reduce energy costs, check out the articles on Single Stage vs. 2 Stage Furnaces and Variable Speed Furnaces in the Furnaces 101 section of our website.
90% – 92% Efficient Single-Stage Furnace
You will often see this model listed as either a 90% or 92% efficient furnace, but some units that are listed as only 90% are actually 92% efficient. This is the entry model into the group that’s commonly referred to as high efficiency furnaces.
You can identify high efficiency furnaces by their vent pipes as well. If a unit is 90% efficient or higher, you will see 2 white plastic (PVC) vent pipes that come out of the top near the front of the furnace.
95% 2-Stage Variable Speed Furnace
Not many people consider buying new furnace to be a fun way to spend money, but this model is where we start to get into the ‘seriously cool’ category. The 2-stage and variable speed features of this furnace will give you all the same benefits you get from them with the 80% efficient version. Plus, almost every penny you spend on natural gas in the winter is going to heat your home.
If you are plagued with seriously expensive utility bills in the winter, or if you live in a bigger than average home, this model can help you save a tremendous amount of money on utilities.
So there’s the Cliff Notes description of the most commonly installed furnaces by Denver, Colorado homeowners. And just in case you were wondering about that ultra high efficiency whiz-bang furnace with all the bells and whistles…
It’s too expensive to be a very commonly installed furnace, BUT… if a ‘seriously cool’ furnace just isn’t good enough and you have your heart set on a ‘seriously sexy’ furnace, the ultimate step up is the 98% Modulating furnace.
98% Modulating Furnace
This really is THE ultra high efficiency whiz-bang model with all the bells and whistles. People who are into engineering love this furnace. In fact, I’ve had absolutely zero success over the years convincing any engineer who wanted one of these furnaces that they don’t actually need it.
A longtime customer of our company (who shall remain nameless) happens to be an engineer, and when he wanted to replace his furnace I tried to explain that he only needed a basic 80% model. Not only did he have no interest in a basic furnace, he actually pulled out his 2-page list of pros and cons that he insisted ‘proved’ he needed a 98% modulating unit in his 900 s.f. condo. Such is the power of a ‘seriously sexy’ furnace I guess.
If you’re looking for information on who has the highest ratings among the best furnace brands, check out this article on the top rated furnace brands from our blog: http://www.altitudecomfort.com/blog/top-rated-furnaces-2014-which-brands-are-best/
For more information on choosing the right furnace for your home, check out the Furnaces 101 section of our website.
About Us: Altitude Comfort Heating and Air, Inc., is a family owned and operated HVAC company specializing in furnace repair right here in the heart of Colorado. We love our awesome customers, and are proud to serve the Denver area community. Thanks for taking the time to stop by our corner of the web!