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What's the Difference Between Different Types of Furnace?

Posted on December 16, 2015
by Appleby Systems

You’re on the market for a new furnace and maybe for the first time it hits you: not all furnaces are the same.

They also try to play off a list of jargon as desirable features. If you don’t work in our

industry or haven’t purchased a new furnace in the last 10 years, you probably don’t know what most of it means.

We’ll lay it out for you here so you don’t get lost in the language again.

Single stage furnaces

single stage furnaceA single stage furnace has two settings.

That’s it. The thermostat in the house calls for heat, so the furnace comes on at 100% aggression. It will run at full capacity until the thermostat is satisfied, then shut itself off.

This is the cycle, and it’s sort of like a car accelerating hard but hitting each stop light it comes upon. It gets you somewhere quickly, but isn’t very efficient.

You may find a single stage furnace achieving 90-95% efficiency, and because of this reduced level of efficiency the cost is always lower than other options.


Two stage furnaces

The burner in a two stage furnace can run at two different levels, depending on what the thermostat calls for.  Typically it will start at 65% and automatically switch to 100% as needed.

A two stage furnace is quieter and generates a more comfortable sort of heat in the house. The longer, slower heating cycle produces even heat so you never experience the sort of rapid warming that many people find uncomfortable.

Longer cycles also filter the air in your home better, because the air passes through the furnace air filter more times in a day. Air quality is significantly improved in the house if your two stage furnace has a humidifier.

Two stage furnaces strike a nice balance between cost and value. They are more expensive to purchase initially, but run more quietly and efficiently than single stage furnaces.

Modulating furnaces

modulating furnaceModulating furnaces can run at an almost endless range of levels. Some models can run at 33% capacity and increase in increments as small as .5%. Because they can manage temperature so precisely in your house, they often run at a very low capacity continuously.

This will provide even heat throughout the home.

Modulating furnaces can achieve up to 98% efficiency, meaning 98% of the fuel that goes into the system returns as heat. But, being the most efficient and highest performing type of furnace also means they’re the most expensive.

Do you want to improve the comfort levels of your home?

The general rule of thumb is if you plan to stay in your current home for more than a few years, a two stage or modulating furnace is the right choice for you.

Contact a member of our team today to learn about the single stage, two stage and modulating furnace options we stock.

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