Winter is still a few weeks away, but many parts of Ontario including Toronto and the GTA have already begun to experience lots of snow and frigid temperatures. While most dwellings are equipped with furnaces to keep our interiors toasty and warm, not all furnaces are created equal. As a homeowner, you may have a single-stage, two-stage, or variable capacity furnace to heat your home.
What’s the difference between a single stage furnace, a two-stage furnace, and a variable furnace? How do you know which one is more energy- and cost-efficient for your home?
Keep reading for cost, performance, and compatibility comparisons between all three types of furnaces. Just be aware that these varieties only apply to gas furnaces, so if you have an oil or electric unit, then this might not apply to you.
Single-stage furnaces are designed to heat your home during the absolute coldest months of the year in your region. As a result, they typically run at the highest possible capacity whenever they’re in operation, regardless of what the temperature and whether is like outside. The reason they’re called single-stage furnaces is because they only have one setting when in operation. One of the few benefits of a single-stage furnace is that the upfront cost is comparably lower than two-stage or variable furnaces.
Since single stage furnaces only have one setting, they don’t distribute heat evenly throughout your home which means that you’ll notice a lot of cold and very warm spots throughout your home. Not only does this impact your monthly energy bills because your furnace is constantly running at full capacity, but it also affects your comfort level throughout your home.
Single-stage furnaces are now becoming obsolete and the government is requiring homeowners to install furnaces with 95% efficiency or higher.
Two-stage furnaces are the opposite of their single-stage counterparts in that they feature two settings instead of one. That means they don’t automatically always operate at full capacity. As the name indicates, two-stage furnaces have two heating outputs: high and low. The high setting is appropriate for extremely cold temperatures and climates, whereas the low setting is used for milder temperatures, such as early autumn days.
Considering the two-stage heating system typically runs at the lower capacity of about 70-80% in most households—depending on how cold it gets in your geographical region, of course—it’s usually classified as the more cost- and energy-efficient option of the two. The low capacity allows many homeowners to keep their two-stage furnaces running for a longer period (usually early October-late April) and they also provide more even heat distribution than single-stage furnaces. Depending on your needs, the benefits of a two-stage furnace outweigh those of a single-stage furnace.
A variable capacity (also known as variable speed) furnace is arguably the most versatile option out of the three. Variable capacity furnaces feature a strong indoor blower motor which can operate at multiple settings and be adjusted according to your specific needs rather than only producing single or dual speeds. Therefore, variable capacity furnaces can more accurately control heat and distribute it evenly throughout your home.
Variable capacity furnaces also have the ability to automatically adjust the blower settings based on certain factors in your home that may restrict air flow, including dirty filters, the location of your furnace, the design of your ductwork, etc.
Not only do variable capacity furnaces provide a more consistent temperature throughout your home to eliminate cold spots and automatically adjust according to the temperature of the house, but the blower motor will still function even when the furnace itself is turned off. Effectively, what this does is it continues to improve the air quality and circulate clean air throughout your home, which reduces the amount of dust and allergens that you and your family breathe in.
Here’s a brief comparison chart of the three furnace options:
|Type of Furnace||Cost||Efficiency||Maintenance||Repair Cost|
|Single-stage furnace||From $2,800 to $4,000 pending BTU input and difficulty of job||Not very efficient
|Annually||Relatively low due to less efficiency
|Two-stage furnace||From $3,000 to $6,000 pending BTU input and difficulty of job
|About 95-97% efficient depending on the capacity||Annually||More expensive than single-stage furnaces due to more intricate parts|
|Variable capacity furnace||From $3,500 to $8,000 pending BTU input and difficulty of job||95-98% efficient||Annually||Costs the most due to the high-tech parts|
The answer to this question is simple. Single-stage furnaces have a much lower upfront cost—and that’s pretty much where the advantages end.
Single-stage furnaces are only ideal for homeowners who are looking to save money on purchasing a furnace or who aren’t planning on spending much time in their homes. So, is a single-stage furnace a good investment? That depends on what you’re looking for and what you can afford to spend.
You’re better off spending a little extra money on the upfront and installation costs of purchasing a two-stage or variable furnace to heat your home. Two-stage and variable capacity furnaces have the capability of increasing your comfort level throughout your home by distributing the heat as evenly as possible throughout every room and you can adjust the temperature according to your preferences.
Between the low-end single-stage furnace and the high-end variable capacity furnace, a two-stage furnace is a perfectly moderate compromise in that it gives you the best of both worlds.
MDM Mechanical is a family-owned and operated furnace installation, maintenance, and repair company that provides high-quality heating and cooling services throughout Toronto and the GTA. We’re committed to providing our customers with the best possible service according to their needs. Contact us today to book a consultation with one of our specialists.
Winter is already on its way and that means it’s time to start thinking about your annual furnace maintenance checklist. The weather has already started hitting the freezing mark in some parts of Ontario, which means a lot of citizens are using more heat and their furnaces are already going into overdrive. Performing a yearly furnace maintenance checklist around this time of year can help you avoid some major problems later on and maximize your furnace’s efficiency while also cutting down your heating costs this winter.
The most obvious reason for conducting routine annual or bi-annual furnace maintenance is so that you can guarantee that your furnace is in perfect working condition before the winter months hit. The last thing you want to happen is for winter to come and have you and your family be stuck without a working furnace.
Plus, maintaining and repairing your furnace will help extend its lifespan while also keeping you and your family toasty and warm all winter long. Performing regular maintenance checks on your furnace is a lot more cost-efficient than having to replace it every couple of years. With proper maintenance and routine repairs or part replacements, your furnace should last you on average about 10-15 years or longer.
An annual or bi-annual maintenance check ensures that your furnace is functioning properly and that your heating system is as energy and cost-efficient as possible, which could end up saving you a lot of money at the end of the year.
If you’re wondering how often to do furnace maintenance checks, the answer is as often as possible. In fact, you shouldn’t wait until your furnace stops working before you decide to check on it. Most HVAC experts will recommend that you check the efficiency and functionality of your heating system at least once every six months. You can perform a bi-annual maintenance check on your own, but you should bring in an expert at least once a year to do a full inspection as well.
Here’s a helpful bi-annual furnace maintenance checklist that you can do on your own:
Carbon monoxide is often referred to as “the silent killer” because it’s completely undetectable to the senses. In October 2017, the Government of Ontario made it mandatory for all residential properties to install working carbon monoxide detectors on each floor to protect homeowners, their families, and their pets. Before that, only residential buildings that were constructed after 2001 were required to have them. Carbon monoxide is an odourless, tasteless, and colourless gas, which makes it extremely dangerous. That’s why you need to double check that your carbon monoxide detector is working properly on a regular basis.
Be sure to add checking your ignition and pilot lights to your gas furnace maintenance checklist if you haven’t already. If they’re not working properly or are flickering yellow, then this could mean that there’s an overabundance of carbon monoxide in your gas furnace. Excessive amounts of carbon monoxide can cause a gas leak, which is dangerous for you and your family.
Lubricating all the moving parts of your furnace from time to time will help keep it functioning efficiently a lot longer and extend its lifespan as well.
It goes without saying that you should test out all the safety features of your furnace to ensure that they’re working properly in the event of an emergency. Your furnace has five main safety features that you should check on a regular basis as part of your preventative maintenance checklist. These include the following: limit switch, thermocouple, mercury flame sensor, the air pressure switch, as well as the carbon monoxide detectors. It’s important to make sure that all of these safety features are always in perfect working condition because they could someday save your life.
Lowering your thermostat by about 2-3 degrees for eight hours a day can actually help maximize its usage while also lowering your monthly energy bills by about 10% annually. Purchasing an automatically programmable smart thermostat is the best way to go. Every time you leave the house—whether it’s for a long or short period of time—you can control the settings from the accompanying phone application. The app will keep you updated on the current temperature inside your home so that you can make the necessary adjustments from a remote location as you see fit.
It’s important to make sure that your thermostat is properly calibrated. Improper calibration could actually cause your furnace to work in overdrive, which will inevitably run up your energy bill much higher than it should be. Inaccurate calibration can occur if dirt enters the calibration system or it gets moved by something.
Annual furnace checklists should be far more detailed than bi-annual ones and for that reason it’s recommended that you hire a professional certified HVAC technician to do it for you. Here are just some of the maintenance tasks they’re qualified to perform:
HVAC technicians tend to keep detailed records of the services they deliver and that includes recording model and part numbers for each unit they service. Logging this information in a safe and secure system makes it easier to access it later on in case further repairs or maintenance are needed. You’ll also be provided with an itemized list of all of the repairs and maintenance that were done for your personal records.
HVAC technicians have professional chimney and vent cleaning equipment along with a great deal of experience to thoroughly clean your chimney and vents for maximum safety during maintenance and repair work.
Dirty filters not only make your furnace less efficient, but they can also damage it over time. Since they’re so cheap and easy to replace, you might as well include this in your annual maintenance plan.
MDM Mechanical is a family-owned and operated professional HVAC company. We specialize in commercial and residential furnace installation, maintenance, and repairs throughout Toronto and the GTA. We’ll make sure that every item on your gas, induction, and vacuum furnace checklist is properly ticked off to ensure maximum operational efficiency before winter comes. Contact us today to schedule your service maintenance appointment.
As a homeowner, there are a lot of potentially high-cost factors that you need to consider from time to time including your energy and water usage. Water heaters can be an expensive upfront investment, but if you choose the right one for your dwelling and administer regular maintenance and repairs, you could also end up saving a lot of money in the long run. The key is deciding whether you need a tankless, tank, or indirect water heater for your home. This decision relies heavily on your budget, water usage, and above all, the infrastructure of your home. Keep reading to learn more.
A high-end and durable water heater is a worthwhile investment for your home, but you need to make sure that you’re choosing the best one based on a number of factors. First and foremost, you need to consider your monthly water usage and how many people are living in your home. Simply put, the more people living in your home at any given time means that you’re most likely going to need a large capacity water heater for things like laundry, cooking, showering, watering your lawn, washing dishes, drinking, and more. Water is such an integral part of our daily lives that we often don’t realize how much of it we actually use until the water bill comes or it’s time to repair or replace our water heaters.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to compare and contrast between the three main types of domestic water heaters: tankless, tank, and indirect.
If you’ve been researching the different types of water heaters and trying to determine which one is a good fit for your home’s infrastructure and the needs of your family, then this table contains a lot of useful information.
|Water Heater Type|
|Tankless/On-Demand Water Heater||Tank/Traditional Water Heater||Indirect Water Heater|
|Cost||Between $1,000-$2,800 (factor in installation costs and additional piping)||Between $952-$2,098 (factor in cost of installation, materials, labour, required permits)||$800-$1,500|
|Energy Efficiency||Between 24-34% more efficient for households using 41 gallons of water or less; 8-14% more efficient for households using 86 gallons daily||Depends on the type of energy being used (natural gas, propane, or electricity) the size of the tank, and daily water usage||About 96% energy efficient if connected to a modern modulating/condensing boiler|
|Heating Time||About 15 seconds||About 30-40 minutes to heat water in the tank, but hot water delivery is instantaneous||About 10-15 minutes, depending on what boiler system is being used|
|Water Usage||Provides water at a rate of 2-5 gallons/minute||Can store about 20-100+ gallons of water at a time||Uses boiler or furnace to heat water|
|Repair Costs||$150-$800 depending on type of repair||About $50-$1,200+ depending on what needs to be repaired, parts, and labour||About $250-$600, unless the tank develops a leak. In that case, the tank would be covered under warranty for life.|
|Available Sizes||Electric: 10" high x 7" wide
Gas: 30"high x 20" wide
|20, 40, 60, 80, or 100 gallons||30-100+ gallons depending on boiler, number of people, and water usage|
|Maintenance Frequency||About once a year depending on regional water conditions and heating temperature||Either every 6 months or once a year, depending on water hardness||Less maintenance than direct water heaters because they have fewer parts|
|Average Lifespan||About 20-30 years||About 8-12 years||About 15-20 years|
The first and most important step in choosing the appropriate water heater for your home or business is to schedule an onsite consultation with a fully trained, licensed, and experienced technician or HVAC installation company like MDM Mechanical. They can thoroughly inspect your current water heater, advise on any repairs or part replacements that need to be made, and recommend brand new top of the line water heaters that are perfectly suited for your needs and fit within your budget long-term.
A certified HVAC technician in your area will explain the differences between the different types of water heaters currently on the market, including the difference between indirect vs. tankless water heaters, potential energy saving between tankless vs. tank water heaters, installation and maintenance costs, and so much more.
The above table should only be referred to as a general guideline. Actual costs and energy efficiency ratings will vary depending on a number of factors including the number of people living in your domicile, water usage per person, as well as the size, make, model, and energy source of each water heater.
With so many different models on the market today, selecting the right water heater for your home or business can be tricky. As mentioned, a number of important mitigating factors need to be taken into serious consideration. These factors will inevitably determine the type of water heater you need.
Unfortunately, what you need doesn’t always perfectly coincide with what you can afford, which is why it may be necessary to crunch some serious numbers or adjust your overall water usage practices.
For example, depending on the brand, size, storage capacity, and energy source, indirect water heater installation can cost anywhere from a minimum of $400 to $6,000 or more.
Commercial enterprises inevitably spend more on water heating and energy than a single household ever will, so water storage capacity and heating time also need to be taken into consideration. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of tank vs. tankless water heaters can be useful.
Simply put, if you need hot water instantaneously, then you’re probably better off purchasing a standard tank water heater. But if energy efficiency and lower long-term costs and maintenance are your game, then you’re better off choosing a tankless water heater.
For more detailed information and assistance with choosing the right water heater for your property, contact the experts at MDM Mechanical. Our comprehensive services include onsite consultations, installation, routine maintenance, and extensive repairs. Give us a call today!