Best High-Efficiency Furnace
More heat for your money, high-tech options
"Waste not; want not" - an old adage that suggests you should make the best use possible of whatever you've got already. This is an admirable goal, so why do so many households still have 65-percent-efficient furnaces installed? These old clunkers may still be running after 25 years, but they're losing 35 cents of every dollar that the homeowner spends on fuel. Given the rising price of natural gas and fuel oil today, that's a lot of money being wasted in these old dinosaurs.
Maybe you're looking for a new furnace and considering going super high-tech. The price difference between a mid-efficiency (78 to 88 percent) furnace and a high-efficiency (89 to 97 percent) unit can be in the range of $1,000, which is quite a bit of natural gas or fuel oil. But if you live in a cold climate that requires serious heating for more than a few months of the year, or if your home is not very well insulated, purchasing a high-efficiency furnace may be a very good way to reduce your annual spending on heating fuels.
There are a variety of efficiency-enhancing options available - the most common is a second heat exchanger, which allows the furnace to extract heat out of the exhaust gases that would otherwise be lost as water vapors. An added benefit of having a high-efficiency furnace using this technology is that the exhaust gases are so cool that they can be vented through a plastic pipe in the wall, so you can mount the furnace virtually anywhere you want, unconstrained by the need for an old-style chimney.
If you're looking for a high-efficiency furnace with the latest technology, you'll probably want to have a look at the Rheem Classic 90 Series Plus with Comfort Control (RGRL series models). These units achieve as high as 95 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) and have a ticket price of around $2,500, plus installation, taxes and fees. Estimated installed costs may fall in the range of $3,500 to $4,500 depending on the home and the additional options you choose.
The Rheem Classic 90 Series Plus is one of many high-efficiency furnaces that offer high value for your money - have your furnace installer do a full heat-loss calculation on your home to tell you what kind of a furnace you need and how much money you can save with a brand-new, high-efficiency unit.
The Carrier Infinity 96 series of furnaces offers even higher efficiency than the Rheem Classic 90, at up to 96.6 percent AFUE, but the higher price may not be justified. In terms of value for the money, you may be better off with the slightly cheaper unit. As always, check with your furnace installer - depending on your home and your local markets, you may be able to get Carrier's Infinity 96 for less.