On the face of it, getting a high-efficiency furnace seems like an obvious choice. A furnace that utilizes energy more efficiently will require much less of it to do the same job. For you as a homeowner, that translates to significant cost savings over time. This is true no matter what method of home heating you choose to make use of: gas, electric, or propane all benefit from improved energy efficiency.

Those cost savings, however, will come in gradually. A slightly smaller energy bill will translate to a few dollars in monthly savings. This might not seem like much, but over the course of the year, it will add up. Over the course of several years, the cost savings can be dramatic. Are these cost savings enough, however, to offset the cost of installing this higher-efficiency furnace? The answer will depend on your home, your energy needs, and the heating method you choose to employ.

How Efficiency Is Measured

All furnaces are given an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating, which indicates how efficiently they utilize fuel. This rating is given as a percentage number. If, for example, a furnace has a rating of 70 percent, it will be able to convert that amount of its fuel into usable heat. If the rating is 80 percent, it makes use of that much fuel, and so on.

To convert these numbers into financial ones, this means if you have a furnace with an AFUE rating of 70 percent, then for every $100 you spend on fuel, $30 will be wasted.

No furnace, of course, is 100 percent efficient, and it’s not possible for them to be. The laws of thermodynamics mean that some heat energy is bound to escape and dissipate. However, advanced technology means that furnaces are becoming more efficient than ever before. While older models usually hover around 70 percent, some of the more advanced newer furnaces are able to convert fuel to heat at up to 98 percent efficiency. Not only is this an incredibly impressive technological achievement, it means that these newer furnaces are significantly more cost-effective than older models.

How High-Efficiency Furnaces Work

The method furnaces use for heating your home is actually an old one, and it remains essentially unchanged, whether you have an older furnace or a newer one. A fuel, such as natural gas or propane, is burned, generating heat energy. This heat energy is transferred to the surrounding air. This air is then circulated, by way of a blower motor, into every room in your home. The temperature is regulated by an electric thermostat, which can turn your furnace on or off, depending upon your desired temperature.

Burning fuel will generate exhaust as a waste product. This is inevitable; it’s simply a law of physics. However, a high-efficiency furnace makes use of advanced technology to squeeze extra heat out of this exhaust. It does this by making use of a second heat exchanger. Where in older furnaces the exhaust gas would simply be vented away, in a high-efficiency furnace the additional heat is drawn out of the gas by this exchanger. This process is so effective that the gas is cooled down tremendously, to the point where it actually condenses into liquid and must be drained away in a different way than in an older furnace model.

This also happens to be why these high-efficiency furnaces are more expensive, however. This additional ventilation technology is costly to produce and install.

Calculating Your Cost Savings

To determine whether it’s worth it for you to have a high-efficiency furnace installed in your home, you’ll need to do a few basic calculations. You’ll need to keep a few things in mind, such as: What is the square footage of your home? How cold does it get during the winter in your area? How efficient is the furnace you’re currently using? These will help you to determine how much money you’ll save over the years with a high-efficiency furnace.

One important factor when calculating your savings is climate: if it’s extremely cold where you are, you are likely to use your furnace a lot and for long periods of time. In that case, you’ll burn through a lot of fuel if you have a furnace that isn’t especially efficient. If, on the other hand, you live in a more temperate climate, you may not end up using your furnace as much. If that’s the case, it may not actually save you enough money to make it worthwhile to install a high-efficiency furnace.

To really get a good idea of how much money you might save over the years, head to this online Furnace Efficiency Calculator. You’ll need to punch in the square footage of your home and the fuel efficiency of your current furnace. The calculator will then compare this against the current cost of natural gas. Compare this number with a more efficient furnace and you’ll discover your cost savings. You can then match this with the installation cost of a high-efficiency furnace to determine if it’s truly worth it for you.

The Installation Process

The first step of having a new, more efficient heating system installed is to contact a local HVAC company, such as Entek. Ask them for a quote for a high-efficiency system. They’ll make a determination based upon the size of your home and a number of other factors. Naturally, the installation will be less expensive if you already have some of the infrastructure in place, such as a vent system and a natural gas main. If you need to have these things installed, the cost will increase. Your HVAC company will be able to help you to discover if you qualify for any rebates or tax credits as well, further helping you to discover if the cost of a high-efficiency furnace is worth it.