Is it Time for a High Efficiency Furnace? – Part 1

It is such a good feeling to spend less and get more. Don’t you agree? Well, that’s the feeling you will have if you can spend less on your heating utility bills, but get more comfort in your home for your family. In this blog post GAMA Air will be helping you folks living in and around Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino to weigh the costs and benefits of changing out your old gas furnace with a high efficiency furnace.

First of all, what is meant by “high efficiency furnace”? To start, let’s quickly sum up how a furnace works. There are essentially two parts to a furnace: The heat source, and the distribution fan. In a gas furnace the heat source is burning fuel, which heats up a metal heat exchanger. Then the fan blows air from the house, past the hot metal heat exchanger, and back into the house. Obviously when you burn fuel, there are fumes that could be deadly. So that part of the furnace is completely isolated from the part that blows air into your home. However, it is not only fumes that get exhausted to the outdoors. Some heat also gets lost out the exhaust flue. If your furnace is fairly old, then more than likely between 30% and 45% of the heat is being lost with the exhaust. More recently furnaces got that down to 20% loss. Now, the most common low-end efficiency of gas furnace that is being installed in the US is 80% AFUE (which stands for “annual fuel utilization efficiency”, and is a way of standardizing efficiency measurements). That is considered a standard-efficiency furnace.

So, what about high efficiency? In a high efficiency furnace, there is a second heat exchanger that pulls additional heat out of the fumes before it is exhausted to the outside. By doing so, some manufacturers are able to achieve over 90% and up to 98% AFUE.

Think of it this way. Let’s say you want to fill a barrel with water using a hose. But the hose has leaks. So, as you are filling the barrel, some of the water doesn’t make it, but instead is wasted. You could try wrapping duct tape around the leaks to reduce the waste, but even so some of the water won’t make it to the barrel. Simply put, that’s how furnaces work. The money you pay to heat your home does not get into your home 100%. Some of it is wasted. But by doing a better job of transferring the heat they generate into your house instead of up the chimney, a high-efficiency furnace is like the hose that has been patched up with duct tape. And if there is less waste, then the furnace does not have to run as much in order to keep your house warm and comfortable. This results in you using less energy to run it and potentially lowering your heating utility bill. So, there is a lot of incentive to consider whether now is the time to install a high-efficiency furnace.

Obviously, there are pros and there are cons to this decision. On the downside, the design and construction of a high-efficiency furnace is more mechanically complex and more expensive than a standard-efficiency furnace. Also, the traditional flue style of exhausting the fumes is not the same. Instead, a special venting system has to be installed to supply combustion air to burn the fuel and to pull the cool fumes out of the furnace and away from the house. So, the upfront cost to install a high-efficiency furnace will clearly be more than simply changing what you have for a similar standard-efficiency furnace. Is it worth it to you?

That’s what we’ll get to in an upcoming blog post. If you have already decided and are shopping around for prices of high-efficiency gas furnace systems, give GAMA Air a call at (310) 651-6936 or use our online form to schedule a visit at a time convenient to you for a no-obligation quote. We guarantee your satisfaction 100%.

Want a quick answer to a question you have? Visit our Ask an Expert page and get a quick answer from the resident expert here at GAMA Air.

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