High-Efficiency vs. Mid-Efficiency Furnaces: Choosing the Best Heating Option

December 4, 2023
Uneven Heating in Roseville, MI

If you’re in the market for a replacement furnace, you have a wide variety of different options to choose from. When trying to decide which new furnace is the best option, one of the most important things to focus on is energy efficiency. In this guide, we’ll discuss the differences between mid-efficiency and high-efficiency furnaces and also show you the different ways you can save with a high-efficiency furnace.

Furnace Energy-Efficiency Ratings

All furnaces directly convert gas to heat energy at a one-to-one ratio. However, some of the heat energy that a furnace produces is wasted because the unit can never capture 100% of the heat from the combustion fumes before they are vented outside through the exhaust flue. The energy efficiency of a gas furnace is expressed in its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE rating, which tells you what percentage of the heat energy the furnace produces that it can effectively use to heat a home.

All mid-efficiency units are conventional furnaces that have one heat exchanger. Conventional furnaces range between 80 and 89 AFUE, which means that they capture and use 80-89% of the heat energy they produce. High-efficiency units are condensing furnaces with both a primary and a secondary heat exchanger, and these units can be anywhere from 90 to 98.5 AFUE.

The secondary heat exchanger is what makes condensing furnaces more energy efficient, as it works to capture most of the heat energy that remains in the combustion fumes when they exit the primary exchanger before they are vented outside. The secondary heat exchanger removes so much heat that the water vapor in the fumes condenses into liquid water, which is why these units are referred to as condensing furnaces.

Comparing Mid- and High-Efficiency Furnaces

Compared to a mid-efficiency conventional furnace, a high-efficiency condensing unit will generally always be the better option. The reason is obviously that a higher-efficiency furnace will use less energy and cost less to operate. Exactly how much you can save on heating costs with a high-efficiency furnace depends on the size of your home, where you live and the unit’s AFUE rating. Opting for a mid-efficiency furnace means you’ll pay less upfront but your heating costs will be lots higher.

A 95-AFUE furnace will use 15% less energy than an 80-AFUE unit. In the Detroit area, you would usually need at least a 60,000-BTU furnace to effectively heat a 1,000-square-foot home. In this case, you’d typically end up spending around $300 less per year to heat your home with a 95-AFUE furnace than if you had an 80-AFUE unit. Considering that the lifespan of a new furnace is typically around 15 years, this means you could easily end up saving more than $4,000 over the life of your furnace. If you have a 2,000-square-foot home, a high-efficiency furnace could potentially save you nearly $9,000 over its life.

The only issue with high-efficiency furnaces is that they have a higher initial cost. Depending on the specific brand and model you choose, you can usually expect to pay nearly double for a 95-AFUE furnace as you would for an 80-AFUE furnace of the same size. This means you’re usually looking at paying at least $1,000 to $2,000 more for a high-efficiency unit. However, installing a high-efficiency furnace will almost always be much more cost effective in the long run since the amount you’ll save in heating costs will more than offset the higher upfront cost.

High-Efficiency Furnace Tax Credits and Rebate Programs

As part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the US created a new tax credit program designed to make high-efficiency HVAC units more affordable. If you install a new furnace that is rated at least 97 AFUE any time between now and the end of 2032, you will automatically qualify for a tax credit that covers 30% of the purchase and installation cost worth up to a maximum of $600.

Thanks to this tax credit, you can potentially get a 97-AFUE furnace for around the same or only a little more than what you’d pay for a 90-AFUE unit. This is great news considering that a 97-AFUE furnace will likely save you anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 over its 15-year lifespan compared to a 90-AFUE unit.

Some HVAC manufacturers like Carrier offer their own rebate programs on new furnaces, and many gas providers like SEMCO also offer special rebates for customers who upgrade to a high-efficiency furnace. Depending on the AFUE rating of your new high-efficiency furnace, these rebates can potentially save you at least a few hundred dollars more. SEMCO also offers an “early retirement” bonus where you’ll receive an even higher rebate if you replace a working furnace before it reaches the end of its life and fails.

How Financing Can Help You Afford a Higher-Quality Furnace

Installing a new furnace will always require a substantial investment no matter what type of unit you choose or how energy efficient it is, but you’re still always better off choosing the highest efficiency unit you can afford. This is where financing can be a huge help, as it will allow you to choose a high-efficiency furnace that best meets your needs without having to pay the entire cost upfront. Instead of being forced to go with a lower efficiency unit, financing can make it easy to afford the best, most energy-efficient option available.

At C & C Heating & Air Conditioning, we’ve partnered with various lenders to offer a range of flexible financing options available on approved credit. When you finance your furnace installation, you’ll be able to spread out the costs so that you pay a monthly fee over a period of years instead of having to pay in one lump sum.

While you will obviously have to pay interest when you finance your new furnace, most financing plans offer fairly low, competitive interest rates. If you use financing to get a much more efficient furnace than you could otherwise afford, you can use all of the money you save in heating costs to offset the interest charges and help pay off the furnace more quickly.

Many people put off replacing their aging furnace simply because they don’t think they can afford it. If your furnace is 12 to 15 years old, it probably isn’t all that energy efficient and may no longer work all that effectively. With financing, you can finally get a high-quality replacement furnace right now and start immediately saving money on your heating costs. You can also be certain that your new furnace will heat your home effectively so that you stay more comfortable during the freezing winter months.

C & C Heating & Air Conditioning has been providing expert HVAC services to customers in Roseville and the Detroit Metro area since 1946. We carry an extensive range of mid- and high-efficiency furnaces from trusted brands like Carrier and Trane, and we offer free estimates on all installation services. If you’re not sure which furnace is best, our certified technicians can help by explaining the pros and cons of all of your available options. For more information on our financing options and the range of furnaces we offer or to schedule any other heating or cooling service, contact the experts at C & C Heating & Air Conditioning today.

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