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How can I improve my home’s efficiency/comfort during the winter?

We get calls, quite consistently, from customers asking how they can increase their home’s energy efficiency and comfort. Oftentimes these two subjects are mutually exclusive. However, in the case of high-efficiency furnaces, they overlap in a few ways.

First of all, an introduction to high-efficiency furnaces is warranted.

grassfootprintFurnaces are measured by their AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization). High-efficiency furnaces are those furnaces that are rated at 90% AFUE, or above. These furnaces differ from their 80% (or lower) AFUE counterparts in that they have a secondary heat exchanger. This heat exchanger pulls up to 10% more heat out of the furnaces by gathering as much of the excess heat from the condensation and combustion processes, and utilizing that extra heat to condition your home. This process makes these furnaces more efficient, thus saving you money, and helping the environment by minimizing the use of fossil fuels.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the United States Department of Energy has mandated that after May 1, 2013, all furnaces sold north of the established line must install 90% AFUE, or greater, in all retrofit, and new construction applications. This makes this topic even more important than before.

What other advantages do high-efficiency furnaces bring to the table?

In addition to saving you money, high-efficiency furnaces can bring additional comfort to your home. Let’s discuss three ways that these pieces of equipment can make you more comfortable:

  1. Variable Speed Blowers: These blowers run at a lower output speed than the older furnaces. Imagine a light switch (either on or off) vs. a dimmer switch (customized to the appropriate setting, based on need). The ability to use a variable speed blower will minimize the amount of cooling down that takes place in the room, while the furnace is in the standby cycle. This saves energy that would’ve been used, when the furnace fires up again, and begins to warm the home up. Variable speed blowers also allow for a constant mixing of the air, so that the amount of stale air is reduced.
  2. Multi-stage burners: When you cook mac n cheese on your stove, do you turn on all of the stove burners to do so? Why would you do the same when heating your home? Multi-stage burners allow the furnace to determine how much gas is needed to provide the amount of heat that your home is calling for. This provides more even comfort than the older furnaces that ran at 100% all the time, every time, regardless of how much heat was needed.
  3. Indoor Air Quality: High-efficiency furnaces can actually improve the air in your home as well. Humidity control becomes easier with high-efficiency furnaces because they draw combustion air from outdoors only, which eliminates the drying effect that standard furnaces have on the indoor air that they use. When standard units pull combustion air from inside the home, the water vapor that exists in all air is reduced to lower levels than usually desired. The presence of high-efficiency furnaces helps solve this problem.

The comfort advantages that high-efficiency furnaces bring are often overlooked because of the energy efficiency solutions that are brought to the table at the same time. It becomes very important to keep all of the advantages in mind when considering a new furnace installation.

Please don’t hesitate to call Thermal Services, at 402.397.8100, to ask any other questions that you might have in regards to this, or any other heating, cooling, and plumbing needs you might have.

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