Hot Choices: Single-Stage vs. Dual-Stage vs. Variable-Speed Furnaces

When a Quality Heating advisor visits your home, we will work with you to measure your heating and cooling space requirements and your energy costs. Our goal is to be responsive to your needs. To help put cost and performance in the proper perspective, we may present you with a “good, better, best” scenario comparing a single-stage furnace, a dual-stage furnace and a variable-speed furnace. Each furnace type can provide essential heat for your home, but that’s where the similarity ends. Each will also offer a varying level of efficiency, a different utility bill each month, and a different price tag.

A Single-Stage Furnace Lands You On First Base 

single-stage furnace has two settings: on and off.  Your furnace will either be running at maximum capacity or not at all.  You could think of this type of furnace as a lower rung on the product advancement ladder. Because its features are more limited, a single-stage furnace is less energy efficient and will typically cost less to purchase.

The “trade-off” is that your energy bills will typically remain the same, or even climb higher since single-stage furnaces do not tend to vary their level of energy consumption. Single-stage home heating systems can also be noisier when they turn on and off or even during regular operation.

A single-stage furnace could be the right choice for a smaller house or a bungalow. There are usually a few hundred dollars separating a single-stage furnace from the more efficient models. 

Coleman Two-Stage, Variable Speed Furnace

Double Your Options with a Dual-Stage Furnace 

Dual-stage furnaces deliver more consistent heat to your home and are more responsive to weather fluctuations, resulting in less drastic temperature changes inside. They are more efficient energy-wise than a single-stage furnace, the outcome of which is lower energy bills.

Models are designed to operate more quietlybecause the furnace is not switching on and off over the course of the day. A high-efficiency furnace can also be eligible for a government rebate.

Dual-stage furnaces generally cost more than single stage models ($250 – $600 more on average). You will want to decide whether it is worth it to you to achieve more consistent and comfortable heating, and better energy-efficiency.

If your home has multiple levels, or if you live in an area in which you experience drastic temperature drops or changes, a dual-stage heating system offers more consistent temperatures and reliability.

Gain More Efficiency and Precision with a Variable-Speed Furnace

A variable or multi-speed furnace monitors the temperature of your home and then adjusts the speed of the blower motor, sometimes referred to as an ECM motor, in small increments. This increased precision results in a home that is more consistently heated, both in different areas of the home and over time.

A variable or multi-speed furnace offers a higher level of efficiency, because the system does not have to run at full capacity in order to reach the set temperature.  Because the furnace does not abruptly stop and start up, these units are much quieter.

Because variable-speed furnaces tend to be more energy-efficient and may be ENERGY STAR® certified, you may qualify for rebates to help offset some of the cost.  It is worth considering how long you will be in your home. 

If you’re planning on staying in your home for at least 5 years, it’s worth considering a significant investment in your home heating that, with proper installation and maintenance, will increase your comfort, reduce your energy bills and last for the long haul. 

Warming up? Recapping the Hot Points

  • Single Stage:  This makes sense only if you want to make the most minimal investment and efficiency or monthly utility bills are not a concern.
  • Dual Stage: A good step up and worth the investment for homeowners looking for better performance and efficiency.
  • Variable Speed: For improved energy-efficiency, more consistent home comfort with quieter operation, as well as the potential to qualify for rebates such as an ENERGY STAR certified heating system, the greater degree of efficiency can mean a greater degree of satisfaction and return on investment. [QH]

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