Should you upgrade to a high-efficiency furnace?

If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your furnace, you may be mulling over whether making the switch to a high-efficiency furnace is worth it. What’s the big deal, anyway? Do they really have that much advantage over other models?

To be categorized as a high-efficiency furnace, a furnace must convert no less than 90 percent of its fuel into heat. Models that convert less than this measure of fuel into heat are labelled as either mid-efficiency or standard efficiency, depending on the actual amount of fuel converted. A select few models are known as ultra-efficiency, which are those that convert at least 92 percent of their fuel to heat.

But what does high efficiency really mean, in practice? High-efficiency furnaces lose less heat and recapture the heat from water vapour before that vapour is released through the flue. High-efficiency furnaces also feature an electric ignition rather than a pilot light and have better-quality fans and heat exchangers. All of this adds up to a furnace that does its job better, more consistently and by using less energy. Those are some of the major plusses of a high-efficiency furnace.

In terms of drawbacks, a high-efficiency furnace is more expensive to install. You could pay upwards of an additional $1,000 to have an HE system installed. However, because you’ll use less energy and save on your monthly energy bill, a high-energy furnace will actually save you money in the long run. HE furnaces can save you as much as 25 percent on your energy bills, but it could be a couple of years before those savings help you break even on the initial extra expense.

One of the biggest advantages of the high-efficiency furnace is that they provide better climate control for your home. Temperatures don’t fluctuate as much when a high-efficiency furnace is in use.

To get the best out of your furnace, you’ll still have to take many of the same steps as you would with a mid- or standard-efficiency model. Failure to replace clogged air filters or to schedule regular maintenance appointments, for example, can result in poor performance from your furnace, no matter what type it is. If you don’t want to have to pay for HVAC repair in NYC homeowners, you’ll have to take care of your furnace, no matter energy efficiency rating it has.

There are some scenarios in which a high-efficiency furnace isn’t a suitable choice. If you live in an area where the temperature doesn’t dip low enough consistently enough for you to have to run your furnace regularly, the added expense probably won’t be worth it for you. Additionally, if you don’t plan to live in your home long term, you won’t be in your home long enough to start seeing the financial benefits of your investment. In that case, a better choice might be to opt instead for an upgrade to a mid-efficiency furnace.

When making the decision whether to upgrade to a high-efficiency furnace, the important things to consider are how often you will use the furnace, how much you can afford to spend on a new furnace, and whether you will be living in your home long enough to reap the energy savings that these furnaces offer.