Did you know that types of furnaces go beyond your standard gas, oil, and electric? You have the option of choosing a single stage, two stage, and modulating furnace. You’ll want to know the pros and cons of each as it can make a significant difference in the comfort level of your home! Read on to find out everything you need to know about the positives, downsides, and how each type of furnace works, so you’re more confident about the kind of new furnace you choose.
Single Stage vs Two Stage Furnace
Single Stage Furnace
A single stage furnace is your most basic model that initially shines in cost-efficiency but lacks energy efficiency. Over the long term, a single stage furnace is likely to cost more money to run, but it’s an excellent option for certain types of homeowners. Here is everything you need to know about a single stage furnace and if it’s the right fit for you.
How it works
The way a single stage furnace operates is simple; it’s either on or off. They’re working at 100% capacity when on, measured in a term referred to as BTU, or British thermal units. There’s no middle setting that will allow you to control your property’s fuel use or airflow. That means whether it’s a mild May in Calgary or freezing January afternoon, your furnace will operate at full force to maintain your desired temperature when turned on. This inefficiency often results in increased utility bills.
Pros of a single stage furnace
If you’re shopping for a single stage furnace, you can take comfort in knowing it’ll provide the heat you need when you need it for the average-sized home. You’ll be able to reap the benefit of a lower initial cost, but this pro can wear off in the long term when compared to higher utility bills.
Cons of a single stage furnace
While the upfront cost savings of a single stage furnace may initially sway you, in the long term, you’ll pay more for the furnace to run. You’ll also experience more temperature swings, especially in mild weather due to it running at total capacity. Unless you live in a smaller bungalow, you’ll likely experience hot and cold spots.
If you’re the type of person that needs absolute silence to sleep, a single stage furnace may be out of the question for you. They tend to be noisier when they turn on and off and during operation.
Is a single stage furnace right for you?
A single stage furnace is a perfect fit for budget-conscious homeowners that don’t plan to live in the home for a long time, if at all. It could be the right furnace for your average-sized rental property or if you plan on moving within the next five years. Just keep in mind that since the furnace will be running at 100% capacity, there will be more wear and tear, creating the need for more maintenance and repair calls.
Two Stage Furnace
A two stage furnace, unlike the single stage, has two settings on which it operates. If you hear the term two-speed furnace, it can also be referring to this type of furnace system. They are more responsive to sudden weather changes and operate more efficiently than a single stage model. When searching for a new furnace, this is your step-up option to balance cost efficiency and energy savings.
How it works
A two stage furnace runs on a low and high setting, so it’s not always operating at 100% capacity. On your average cycle, when the furnace turns on, it begins running on the low setting, using less gas and electricity. This is providing heat and gains inefficiency for about 7-10 minutes. Then, it’ll finish out the heating cycle at full capacity, running more efficiently. An example of how a two stage furnace could work for you is that it could run at 60% capacity on a mild day, and on a cold Calgary winter night, your furnace will run at 100%.
Pros of a two stage furnace
A two stage furnace is often quieter and evenly distributes the heat more adequately throughout your home. Since the heating cycle is longer, at a slower speed, you won’t find a sudden rush of warmth, making the hot and cold spots less noticeable. Due to how it operates, it’s more responsive during the intense weather changes Calgary homeowners are used to. Remember that you could even be eligible for a government rebate when purchasing a high-efficiency furnace!
Cons of a two stage furnace
If you have poor insulation or drafty windows, you may not find that a two stage furnace makes much of a difference in energy efficiency. While a furnace can make you more comfortable, it can’t fix how your home holds the heat. The initial cost is more than your single stage furnace but can be a worthwhile investment for certain Calgary homeowners.
Is a two stage furnace right for you?
If you live in a property with multiple levels or struggle with hot and cold spots throughout the home, a two stage furnace may be the perfect solution. With dual-stage heating, you’ll have more consistent heat and enjoy a quieter model you won’t notice as much when it kicks on.
A modulating furnace is recognized as the best energy-efficient option, with the most accurate, consistent temperatures running through your home or commercial property. They can have such precise increments; you can see them increasing by 0.5% capacity on certain models. When shopping for a new furnace, this is the top-of-the-line option that maximizes your home comfort.
How it works
Like most furnaces, the modulating furnace can vary depending on which type you go with. For example, one may start operating at 40% capacity and up to 100%, with 1% incremental changes available. This means that your furnace is tracking temperature in real-time and adjusting it to maintain the temperature within 1 degree of what you’ve set it to. The burner adjusts the amount of fuel burned for a more consistent temperature, even with rapidly changing weather conditions.
Pros of a modulating furnace
Since a modulating furnace monitors and adjusts the amount of fuel burned regularly, you minimize any negative impact on the environment. Since it’s operating on an exact fuel intake amount, there is more energy efficiency, saving you money on your hydro bills. In the long term, a modulating furnace provides the most control over the comfort of your home. An added benefit is the increase in air circulation. The fan moves, even when the heat is turned off, working to remove bacteria and other contaminants inside your ductwork.
Cons of a modulating furnace
The ultimate drawback of purchasing a modulating furnace is the price. However, you do get what you pay for. Depending on the model you choose, you may also need to invest in a new thermostat controller.
Is a modulating furnace right for you?
If you’re in your forever home or plan on staying for at least 10+ years, a modulating furnace may be the best bang for your buck. While the initial cost may be more, in the long term, you’ll have more control over your temperature and a more efficient furnace that helps keep bills at a minimum. However, if you have a tight budget and you’re experiencing Calgary’s cold winters, a modulating furnace isn’t essential. Any working furnace will do!
Furnace Type Recap
To give you a quick recap about single stage vs two stage furnace and other types of furnaces you could have in your home:
Single stage furnace: This is the most basic and typically cheapest model that will heat your home.
Two stage furnace: This is a level up from the single stage, with better performance and efficiency with a higher initial investment.
Modulating furnace: If you have the budget for a modulating furnace, this is the best option for consistent heat, better air quality, and more efficiency.
No matter what type of furnace you have or are looking to buy, the experts at Plumbing and Heating Paramedics can help install a new furnace, maintain or repair what you have in your Calgary home. Our experts are available 24/7, just a phone call away at (403) 879-7213 or contact us to book an appointment.
What type of furnace do you have in your home? Have you considered upgrading? Let us know in the comments and help other readers decide which furnace is right for them. If you have any questions, we’re happy to answer them in the comment thread below!