Single-Stage vs. Two-Stage vs. Modulating Furnaces

Often, when a family purchases a home, the furnace is an afterthought, rather than a deciding factor. Usually, buyers are more focused on the location, the layout and the design details. Nonetheless, it’s smart to know what type of heating system we’ll be using and how that will affect the indoor ambience.

There are three types of furnaces in use today: single-stage, two-stage and modulating. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at how they operate and consider their pros and cons.

One note: energy efficiency isn’t the sole province of a furnace. If your home is poorly insulated or has leaky windows, heat will escape despite the efficiency of the furnace.

Single-Stage Furnace

A single-stage furnaces is the simplest type of furnace you can own. It only has one mode of heating: going full bore. If it’s on, it is running at full power; otherwise, it’s off. Older furnaces are generally single-stage models.

The biggest advantage to purchasing a single-stage furnace is its initial price. It is cheaper than either of the other types, so you’ll save money up front when you buy one. If you’ve lived in your home for a while and have been satisfied with a single-stage model, or if you don’t plan to live there long, there’s no need to invest in a more complex model.

Single-stage furnaces aren’t particularly energy efficient, so your monthly heating bills may be higher than you’d like. They may not heat your home evenly, especially if it is two-storeys or more; there may be warm and cold spots and temperature spikes. The furnace may warm the air near the thermostat faster than elsewhere in the house, causing the furnace to shut down before other rooms are heated adequately. In addition, single-stage furnaces can be noisy during operation or when shutting off and restarting.

Two-Stage Furnace

A two-stage (or dual-stage) furnace has two settings, in addition to off: a low setting and a high setting. You don’t set it manually; the furnace generally runs at a setting, but if there is a change in outdoor temperature, it will kick into high gear.

The two settings allow the furnace to reduce temperature fluctuations in your home and provides more efficient, even heating. They are quieter than single-stage models, because they are not turning on and off throughout the day. In addition, they are more energy efficient than single-stage furnaces, so your heating bills should be lower.

Two-stage furnaces work well in homes with multiple storeys, those that have hot and cold spots or those in climates with drastic temperature swings; they will keep your home warm and comfortable.

However, if you are purchasing a two-stage furnace, be prepared to spend more initially than you would for a single-stage model. If you won’t be living in your home for more than a year or two, you may not want to spend the additional dollars required.

Modulating Furnace

Modulating furnaces don’t simply have two furnace settings, in addition to OFF; they have many. They offer the most precise temperature control on offer the multiple speeds can usually keep your home within a degree or two of your desired setting.

In addition to the variable settings, they often have a variable-speed blower. Not only is your air heated more precisely, the unit doesn’t need to operate at top capacity to reach the temperature you desire, so you won’t be using as much fuel and spending as much on heating bills as you would with other types of furnaces. Modulating furnaces are the Rolls Royces of the energy-efficiency world. Top-of-the-line models use 98 cents of every dollar you spend on the heating itself.

If you’re spending a lot of money on heating, if your home has multiple storeys or a number of hot and cold spots, you’ll get great satisfaction and value from a modulating furnace.

However, the Rolls Royce qualities also come with a higher purchase price, so if you’re planning to flip your home within a year or two, you may not want to make the initial investment.

With all of these choices at hand, here’s hoping they don’t inspire a heated debate over purchasing a furnace; instead, they should allow you to heat your home at the price and efficiency level you demand.


We will be happy to discuss heating options for your home with you.

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© Next Day Home Services Inc. 2020Privacy PolicyTELEPHONE: 604.897.3411ADDRESS: 201-19049 95a Avenue, Surrey,BC V4N 4P3

© Next Day Home Services Inc. 2020Privacy PolicyTELEPHONE: 604.897.3411ADDRESS: 201-19049 95a Avenue, Surrey,BC V4N 4P3