Modulating Or Multi-Stage Burners – Which Should You Choose For Your New Furnace?

If you're installing a new furnace and looking to get the best that money can buy, you're probably looking at units that go beyond single-stage burners. Single-stage burners are still standard in many homes, and these basic units operate in a simple on-or-off fashion. In other words, single-stage units can never vary the amount of heat they produce.

Despite their simplicity, single-stage units are still effective at maintaining temperature, but they can produce swings between hot and cold that may not be particularly comfortable. A multi-stage or modulating unit can offer more comfort and efficiency, but how do these units work, and which one should you choose for your home?

Bring the Heat – But Not Too Much!

When your thermostat calls for heat from a single-stage furnace, the furnace will kick on at full power. This design produces a blast of hot from your home's vents, which will continue blowing until the thermostat reaches its setpoint. If you're close to the vents, you might notice the temperature fluctuating between warm and cold depending on if the furnace is running.

Multi-stage and modulating furnaces address this issue by allowing the furnace to run at less than full power. Instead of a sudden blast of warm air, the furnace can run for longer at lower speeds, producing temperatures that are more consistent and closer to your setpoint. This behavior is also more efficient since the furnace only needs to operate at full power when needed.

Two Approaches to One Problem

While multi-stage and modulating furnaces attempt to solve the same problem, they do so differently. A multi-stage furnace can run at several speeds, with basic two-stage models operating at "high" or "low" power. These furnaces will blow full blast when demand is high but produce a lower, more comfortable temperature during normal operation.

On the other hand, a modulating furnace can adjust its burner power in many small and variable increments. These furnaces operate in a fundamentally different way from staged furnaces, attempting to run for much longer and at much lower power. As a result, modulating furnaces don't produce the same on/off cycles you'll see with single-stage or even multi-stage furnaces.

How Much Control Do You Need?

Both modulating and multi-stage furnaces offer superior comfort and efficiency to single-stage models. If you're looking for a way to upgrade your home's heating, either choice will work well. Multi-stage furnaces are the cheaper option, but these units are also simpler and more like traditional single-stage models. As a result, maintenance and repairs tend to be less than with a modulating furnace.

On the other hand, modulating furnaces offer the latest and greatest heating technology. If money is no concern, these models can provide you with extremely consistent and comfortable temperatures, along with lower utility bills, thanks to their higher efficiency.

For more information about which furnace to use, reach out to an HVAC installation service.