Throughout winters that are often bitterly cold, it can cost hundreds of dollars every month just to keep your Chicago area home at a decent livable temperature. The coldest months of winter can sap more energy than the rest of the year combined, especially if you’re running an outdated or inefficient furnace. A two-stage furnace is one option for better efficiency and more reliable comfort levels in even the coldest weather.
What Is a Two-Stage Furnace?
Traditional furnaces are strictly on/off machines. They flip on at a certain level whenever your house gets too cold, run at full blast until it reaches the thermostat setpoint, and then shut off. With a two-stage furnace, the burner only turns on high when it's absolutely needed but can scale back to a low setting once your house is warmed to the desired level.
All two-stage furnaces have a high and low setting on the burner itself, but some models also have dual settings on the blower motor. This means that you have a low level of consistent heating, as well as decreased air velocity coming from the vents. A low blower setting cuts down on unwanted drafts or hot spots, as well as saves electricity by adjusting to the needs of the household.
How Do Two-Stage Furnaces Work?
A two-stage furnace only runs on high when there's a significant difference between the thermostat setpoint and the current temperature. For instance, it might kick on when the programmable thermostat switches from the night setting to the one you want during the day. Once it reaches the setpoint, or the point at which a standard furnace would shut off, it automatically switches to the low setting.
Why Choose Two-Stage Over a Standard Furnace?
The biggest difference between the two-stage furnace and traditional furnaces is the efficiency. Because the burner doesn't completely shut down on a cold day, it burns a lot less energy just trying to get back up to a set point. In terms of annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), a two-stage furnace runs at a stunning 98.5. A furnace with a multi-speed blower may be able to achieve even better efficiency levels. The typical standard furnace limps along at only about 80 percent.
This furnace has several other distinct advantages as well, including:
- No temperature roller coaster every day. Standard single-stage furnaces usually reach the setpoint and then shut off until the temperature drops a certain amount below the setpoint. In most homes, that's 1 to 2 degrees. Most homes have a constantly fluctuating temperature, potentially making it difficult to stay comfortable without piling on the sweaters and blankets.
- Significantly lower heating costs. The two-stage furnace is so efficient because the high setting only runs occasionally instead of multiple times a day. With the prices on most common fuels slowly creeping up, this furnace helps keep your consumption within household budgets.
- Fewer cold spots in your house. The areas around your vents will heat up quickly with a standard furnace, potentially making them uncomfortably warm, while the far corners of each room remains cold.
Two-stage furnaces do involve a significant initial investment for purchase and installation, but the better efficiency through a typical northern winter makes them well worth the price. Combine it with other energy-saving devices such as a programmable thermostat, and you may be surprised at just how low your energy bill can be without sacrificing comfort.
A house with a good HVAC system shouldn’t require you to wear layers inside your home or make you feel cold all winter. If this is your current reality, then something needs to change. With a new two-stage furnace, you can get the nice even heat you're missing and spend less in the process. Because it's bound to be cold every winter, it won't take many seasons to recoup the cost of your new furnace. Burning less fuel is better on the environment and can also reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and other common heating hazards in your home.
For more information on what two-stage furnaces can do for you, or to check out the available heating options, contact us at Comfort24-7. We help connect you with qualified HVAC professionals in the Chicago area, as well as Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan.