Are High-Efficiency Furnaces Worth The Money?

Kenneth Wilson

The decision to purchase a furnace definitely shouldn't be taken lightly in any respect. You must have a professional HVAC contractor, installer, and of course, a good quality furnace. However, high-efficiency furnaces do cost a pretty penny, so the question that remains is, is it worth it to buy one of these?

Despite the large cost upfronthigh-efficiency furnaces are usually worth the money. Not only do they save money each month on bills due to reduced energy usage, but they last longer and are ultimately safer for families due to the reduced risk of carbon monoxide toxicity.

It's okay if you still need a little bit of convincing; furnaces are expensive and should be bought with great care! Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of paying more money upfront for a high-quality furnace.

What are High-efficiency Furnaces?

High-efficiency means that the furnace will use less fuel, or energy, to heat the entire house. This is done by using sealed combustion (pulling air from outside the house) rather than open combustion (pulling air from around the furnace) to heat the house. These furnaces also don't use a pilot light to heat the house, so they are ultimately using less energy than other models that rely on that flame.

These furnaces usually appear in gas models. Gas models will usually help you to save money on power and gas bills in the long run. Gas furnaces tend to have a higher percentage of Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) or, in other words, the ratio of heat output in comparison to the amount of fuel energy the furnace consumes. This is a much higher number than most other electric furnaces have and is therefore much more fuel-efficient.

Types of High-Efficiency Gas Furnaces

High-efficiency gas furnaces have been around much longer than any other type of high-efficiency furnace. The cost of gas is much lower than the cost of oil and it is regulated through public utility companies.

Single-Stage Heating

This type of heating means that there is one level of heating, 100% capacity, is activated at full blast whenever the furnace is turned on. When the thermostat meets the desired temperature, it will communicate to the furnace to turn off. It only has one level, high.

These furnaces come in 80% to 96% efficiency models.

Two-Stage Heating

This type of heating means that there are two different levels of heating capabilities depending on what the thermostat says, one around 65% capacity and then another at 100% capacity. For example, it may run on low for a while until the thermostat is boosted 10 degrees, triggering the more intense heating power.

These furnaces are more efficient than single-stage heating, but not by much.

Variable Capacity Heating

This type of heater uses increments of 1% capacity to heat the house instead of having two set levels. It ranges from 40% to 100% capacity, depending on what is needed for the temperature set.

This type of furnace can run anywhere from 96% to 99% efficiency.

The table below shows the Average Cost of High-Efficiency Gas Furnaces (100,000 BTU):

Furnace Type

Average Efficiency

Average Cost










Benefits and Drawbacks of High-efficiency Furnaces (Gas Furnaces)


  • A high-efficiency furnace will save money on the energy bill and ultimately pay for itself as a long-term investment. They use less energy to do the same amount of work that a traditional furnace does.
  • it is ultimately safer for your family. The furnace's sealed combustion reduces the risk of carbon monoxide issues as it uses up to 150 ppm carbon monoxide levels within the flu than traditional furnaces. This keeps the silent killer away from your family and safe within the furnace.
  • Gas furnaces tend to be much more power-efficient and versatile as well. Gas furnaces can be paired with multiple different kinds of cooling systems such as an air conditioner or a heat pump. A gas furnace can really accomplish a lot, so if you're willing to pay the price, you won't likely be disappointed in the results.


  • The cost up-front for this type of furnace is something to seriously consider when deciding to buy this type of furnace. Compared to its low-efficiency relative, it can cost two or more times the amount for the furnace alone. Not only do you need to pay the cost for the furnace, but you will have to pay for more than just the furnace. Other parts will need to be replaced as well.
  • The piping will have to be changed from metal to PVC pipes to avoid any corrosion that will occur from the different types of combustion occurring. And there will need to be the addition of adding vents to help with any condensation that will occur around the machine itself.
  • The cost to install the furnace will be costly because the equipment and setup are more complex than low-efficiency furnaces and will most likely need to be hired out to be installed. So in essence, high-efficiency furnaces do have far more upsides than downsides, but you definitely have to be prepared for every cost that installing a high-efficiency furnace will include. If you are prepared to do that, you should be just fine. (Related: Heat Pump Or Gas Furnace? Which One Is Right For You?)

Benefits and Drawbacks of Low-efficiency Furnaces (Electric Furnaces)


  • High-efficiency furnaces are typically considered to be the best, but electric ones (though they may be less efficient) still have their advantages. One of these. benefits is the fact that they have a much lower upfront cost. The furnace itself is not only cheaper but so are the parts and any installation costs you may have to pay.
  • Electric furnaces are much less bother to have to install. Gas furnaces need special venting because they have to discharge combustion gases in a safe area where they won't be harmful to the occupants of the house. This can be a bit of a hassle to install, even if you are hiring it out.
  • In comparison to gas furnaces, electric or low-efficiency furnaces are much less maintenance to have to worry about. Obviously, there will still be some things you'll have to do (switching out vents, etc.) but gas furnaces will definitely keep you busier than an electric one will. Which one to buy will depend entirely upon what you are willing to put up with.


  • Low-efficiency furnaces are cheaper upfront, it's true, but unfortunately, they could cost you far more money in the long run. Gas furnaces are, on the whole, a lot more fuel-efficient and therefore more cost-efficient. Additionally, because natural gas is most often cheaper, the overall cost of an electric furnace could prove to be higher. This, of course, must usually be determined by the climate of the area where you live and how often you have to run the furnace during the winter.
  • Electric furnaces sometimes put out dry air, which can lead to poor health conditions (although this isn't always the case). Dry air in a home is usually undesirable, but keep in mind that it can be counteracted with a humidifier. If this is a realistic solution, perhaps a low-efficiency furnace will be okay for you.

How to Fix Issues with your Furnace

Every furnace will need to be replaced at one time or another and that is simply an inescapable fact. Here are a few issues you may come face to face with if you are the owner of a furnace. There are also a few small repairs you could potentially undertake yourself, so make sure you inspect your furnace thoroughly before tearing it out and having a new one installed.

  1. 1
    Make sure nothing is blocking the flow of air from any of your vents. This could be anything from a piece of furniture to drapes or anything else. Make certain that each of your vents has a clear path to blow warm air, otherwise, things could most definitely go wrong.
  2. 2
    Check if your thermostat is being turned on to the right setting. Make sure it's on fan or auto and is set to heat. Once you have checked that, increase the temperature by a few degrees to see if it starts blowing air. If it doesn't, you may have another problem on your hands.
  3. 3
    Check the filter. A clogged and dirty filter will reduce your furnace's efficiency and prevent warm air from escaping and flowing evenly to the rest of your home. Cleaning may not be enough, so you will probably have to completely replace the air filter for optimal performance. This isn't too difficult because you can simply buy another one at most hardware stores.
  4. 4
    Make sure that your furnace is turned off during the summer months. This may mean going down to the furnace itself to make sure that everything is shut down. Without realizing it, your furnace may have been working during the summer months, along with the air conditioner. This simple check may save hundreds of dollars during the year.
  5. 5
    Make sure to go through windows, doorframes, and exterior walls to check for any kind of air leaks that could be causing the warm air to leak out in the winter. Seal any of these leaks as quickly as you can. They can be sealed quickly with caulk, which will create an airtight and watertight seal.
  6. 6
    Take the time to inspect and make any necessary repairs to your ductwork. If there are punctures anywhere throughout the system, this could stop warm air from making it to all the floors and corners of your house. You may end up having to replace a duct or two, but this will help you from spending any unnecessary money on heat!
  7. 7
    If the breaker switch is being flipped, run out to the breaker box and make sure everything is turned on and working properly. You don't want to call in the big guns if something as simple as this could be what's causing you some grief. It is also possible that a fuse has blown completely, and if that is the case, you should get that fixed right away. Hopefully, this means your furnace will still function properly afterward.
  8. 8
    Try resetting the blower motor. If it got overheated or experienced an overload, it may need to start again. You can look for a reset button which is usually located near the motor's housing. Push it and wait a few seconds to see if the blower kicks on. If it does not, wait for approximately thirty minutes to allow the motor some time to cool down. After that, you can try pushing the button again to see if it starts back up.
  9. 9
    If you are the owner of a gas-powered furnace, it is possible that the pilot light has gone out or the gas valve has been shut off. Run down to your basement and check to see if either of these things has happened. If so, you should relight the pilot and turn on the gas valve once more.

If none of these things seems to work for you, it is probably time to wave the white flag and call in a furnace repair technician. It's okay if you have tried everything else on your own. You should definitely not attempt any kind of big repairs or replacement on your own since this could lead to further problems.

Call in a technician and they will help you to determine whether you simply need a repair or if your furnace has run its course and needs to be replaced.

Kenneth Wilson
September 8, 2021
HVAC, Interior

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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