If you’ve looked for a new furnace in the past few years, you might be surprised at some of the capabilities of these modern appliances. Compared to their older counterparts, new furnaces are capable of more heat output, higher energy efficiency, and greater longevity.
But what is responsible for newer furnaces being this much better? And does it make sense to replace your existing furnace?
New vs. Old Furnaces
Furnaces have come a long way. You could argue that modern furnaces are better in every conceivable way when compared to furnaces from just 30 years ago. Heating is not a new technology, but it is a technology that’s constantly progressing, so it shouldn’t surprise us that every year, new features push the limits of what furnaces can do. When those technological steps forward begin to accumulate, the differences become bigger and more noticeable.
These are just some of the specific components that make newer furnaces better than older ones:
- Better heating elements. Electric furnaces and gas furnaces work slightly differently, but they both depend on a central heating element, which is responsible for taking energy and using it to produce heat. This heat is then distributed throughout the house using air circulation. Part of the advancement of modern furnaces has relied on better heating elements, which can produce more heat from less energy. These new heating elements produce less waste, and are engineered to last indefinitely if taken care of properly.
- Secondary heating elements. Some types of furnaces have a secondary heating element, pushing the efficiency levels even higher. For example, condensing furnaces contain a second heat exchange to draw even more heat from lit gas.
- Electronic ignition. Old style furnaces relied on a pilot light, constantly running, as a source of ignition. But these days, electronic ignition systems only use energy when necessary, reducing energy demands.
- Fans with multiple speeds. Another feature of modern furnaces is sophisticated fans with multiple speed settings. Older furnaces were either on or off; there was only a single speed for the fan, so when it ran, it ran hard. These days, different fans and different fan settings allow furnaces to operate only as necessary, using less energy in instances of lower demand.
- A longer lifespan. If you take good care of your new furnace, it should last 20 years or more. Appropriate care can give an older furnace a longer lifespan too, but thanks to more advanced technology and better engineering, newer furnaces have them beat in this area.
- More support. Modern furnaces also have more support. If any internal components of your furnace break, it’s easy to find replacements. This allows you to keep your furnace running more efficiently for a longer time.
Other Factors to Consider
Collectively, the above factors make modern furnaces more energy efficient and more powerful than their older counterparts. But there are also some secondary factors to consider; these factors can distort our perceptions and make us attribute other gains in energy efficiency to better furnaces.
- Better insulation and fewer air leaks. Newer houses have better insulation and fewer air leaks. Even older houses are benefiting, with the rise in popularity of solutions like blown insulation and efficient window replacements. If you spend even a little time upgrading your house to reduce air leaks, your furnace will run much more efficiently, regardless of how old or new it is.
- Better air filters. Modern air filters utilize new technology and are much more efficient than their older counterparts. Air filters are relatively simple components, but even small improvements can add up to make a big difference over the lifespan of your furnace.
- Age and performance. The comparison of old and new furnaces is somewhat unfair; as a furnace (or any complicated machine) operates, it suffers from wear and tear and becomes less efficient with time. If you compare a brand-new furnace to one that’s been running for 20 years, the one that’s been running for 20 years is going to perform worse, even if it could have rivaled the new furnace in its prime.
- More energy efficiency minded consumers. Modern consumers are also more energy conscious, prompting them to pay more attention to their heating habits and make an effort to heat their homes more efficiently.
Should You Replace Your Furnace?
Should you replace your older furnace with a newer model? That all depends on what your needs are and how your furnace is performing. If your furnace is performing optimally, and you’re satisfied with your utility bills, don’t upgrade for the sake of upgrading. This simply produces more waste and will cost you more money than it’s worth.
But if your older furnace is struggling, or your energy bills have consistently increased, it might be worth considering investing in a new unit. They’ve certainly become impressive.