In cold climates (like Kansas City), where homeowners use their furnace for several months of the year, we suggest a condensing (high-efficiency) furnace. Why? Because of the high level of efficiency that condensing furnaces have, they have the potential to save homeowners money on monthly utility costs.
However, condensing furnaces are more expensive to install than non-condensing furnaces, and even if you decide to purchase a high-efficiency furnace, there are a number of factors outside of efficiency rating that can affect the amount of savings you’ll see.
The only way to accurately determine which furnace is best for you is to have a professional assess your home and heating needs. An experienced tech can help determine which type of furnace is the right choice for your home and wallet.
Below, we’ll discuss the differences between non-condensing and condensing furnaces, and the factors that can affect energy savings.
Differences between non-condensing and condensing furnaces
The 2 biggest differences between non-condensing and condensing furnaces are:
- The number of heat exchangers they have
- Their efficiency levels
Let’s start with the number of heat exchangers.
Traditional, non-condensing furnaces, have one heat exchanger.
Furnaces produce heat through a process called combustion, which happens inside of the heat exchanger. During the combustion process, energy is turned into heat…but a significant amount of that heat is lost (turned into water vapor).
Unlike non-condensing furnaces, condensing furnaces have 2 heat exchangers.
Condensing furnaces use the second heat exchanger to extract that extra heat that would have been lost in the non-condensing furnace. This is what makes condensing furnaces more energy efficient than non-condensing furnaces, and can potentially reduce their operating costs.
Okay…so how much more efficient are condensing furnaces?
Non-condensing units have an efficiency (AFUE) rating between 80% and 89%.
Condensing units have an efficiency (AFUE) rating between 90% and 98.5%.
While both are considered energy-efficient, furnaces with an AFUE at 90%+ are considered “high-efficiency” and will usually result in the most energy savings.
Factors that will affect cost savings
As we mentioned above, regardless of whether you invest in a condensing or a non-condensing furnace, there are a number of factors that will impact the actual cost savings you’ll see.
Some of these factors include:
1. Duct work– Ducts can make a large impact on the cost of your monthly utility bills. If you have outdated or leaky duct work, you could be losing a large part of the heat your furnace is producing, spiking your monthly energy bills.
Our tip: Hire a qualified professional to seal and insulate your ducts. This will ensure your ducts are retaining as much heat as possible, maximizing your energy savings.
2. Insulation– If your home has outdated or low-quality insulation, you’ll lose some of the heat your furnace is producing. This normally results in your furnace overcompensating to maintain your desired temperature, leading to an increased utility bill.
Our tip: Have a technician assess your current insulation and potentially update it, so that your home isn’t losing heat due to poor insulation.
3. Furnace technology- Furnaces that are equipped with more advanced technology will usually be more energy efficient, which can impact your overall savings. The two main pieces that will impact efficiency are the blower motor and burner.
- Single speed- least expensive and least efficient
- Multi-speed- moderately expensive and moderately efficient
- Variable speed most expensive and most efficient
- Single stage- least expensive and least efficient
- Two-stage- moderately expensive and moderately efficient
- Modulating- most expensive and most efficient
Essentially, the more technology you invest in, the higher the potential savings you’ll see in the long run.
However, the extra cost of this advanced technology may or may not be worth it for your home and budget. You should check with a professional to help determine the best cost-savings option for you.
The solution: Consult a professional
We get it, we’ve said this repeatedly…but that’s because it’s important. The best way for you to determine which furnace is best for your Kansas City home is to enlist the help of a professional.
Whether you invest in a non-condensing or a condensing furnace, it’s a big investment, and you want to be sure that you can maximize your long-term savings with whichever option you choose.
Below are a few tips for finding a qualified contractor:
- Make sure they are licensed and insured– You can do this by searching for the company on the Better Business Bureau and seeing if they are accredited. To be accredited by the BBB, a company must be licensed and insured.
- Check to see if they have good reviews- You should check sites like:
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