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High-Efficiency Furnaces—Are They Worth It?

man-putting-money-in-piggy-bankFall is here: time for homeowners to evaluate their readiness for cold weather. For many, this means replacing an old gas furnace.

If you are one of the homeowners hunting for a new heating system to help you through another winter in Chicagoland, then we need to discuss high-efficiency furnaces. You’ve probably already given some thought to going high-efficiency, but aren’t sure if it’s worth the additional cost to upgrade. We’ll shed some light on the question of whether a high-efficiency gas furnace is worth it. When you’re ready, call us to arrange for furnace installation in Winnetka, IL or elsewhere in Chicagoland, and we can help you make the best unit choice and have it put in place.

The Efficiency Difference

How much more efficient is a high-efficiency furnace? Here’s a quick comparison, courtesy of stats from the US Department of Energy:

  • Low-efficiency furnaces: 56% to 70% AFUE
  • Mid-efficiency furnaces: 80% to 83% AFUE
  • High-efficiency furnaces: 90% to 98.5% AFUE

“Wait, what’s AFUE?” you’re asking. AFUE is the percentage of the natural gas supply an individual furnace converts into heating power. If a furnace has 80% AFUE, it means 80% of the natural gas becomes heat applied to the home and 20% is lost out the flue as exhaust.

If your furnace was installed during that last 10 to 15 years, it’s probably a mid-efficiency unit. You can look on the nameplate to find the AFUE rating. If you have a low-efficiency furnace, it’s probably extremely old and we recommend you replace it as soon as possible—even if just to upgrade to mid-efficiency. Any furnace performing at 70% AFUE or lower is too old and at risk of a major breakdown.

The Features of a High-Efficiency Furnace

How does a high-efficiency furnace make such significant improvements in AFUE? There are a number of features that help boost efficiency:

  • Second heat exchanger: The exhaust from the main heat exchanger in the furnace doesn’t go right out the flue. It instead goes to a second exchanger where the exhaust gas is condensed. This releases more heat, helping the furnace get the most from its fuel supply.
  • Sealed combustion chamber: The combustion chamber of a high-efficiency furnace isn’t open to the air in the house. It draws air for combustion through a PVC pipe to the outside of the house. The sealed chamber loses less heat. (It’s also a safer method of combustion.)
  • Variable speed fans, multi-stage burners: Some high-efficiency furnaces use fans or burners that operate at lower capacity when possible. This not only improves efficiency, it helps the furnace more evenly distribute heat to avoid rooms that are too stuffy.

Is It Worth It?

Most of the time, yes. Even an improvement of 10% AFUE means the furnace will pay back its installation cost. If your furnace is around 15 years old, then a high-efficiency replacement is an even better option. There are also the benefits of safer operation with sealed combustion and better heat distribution with variable-speed fans.

However, we don’t recommend you make the decision on your own. Our technicians can evaluate your current furnace and assist you with choosing what type of installation will work best for your home’s heating needs and your budget.

ServiceMax is open 24/7, all day, every day! Schedule an appointment today to plan out your heating for the winter.

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