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Condensing vs Non‑Condensing Furnace In Minneapolis‑St. Paul

furnaces twin cities

In the market for a new furnace, but not sure if you should go with a condensing or non-condensing system?

Because of our cold climate in the winter, we generally recommend going with a condensing (high-efficiency) furnace. They are generally more efficient than non-condensing systems, so you’ll likely save money in the long run in the form of lower energy bills.

That said, condensing furnaces are more expensive to install upfront. Because of their higher installation cost, they may not be best for every homeowner. That’s why it’s important to consult with a professional to help you choose the most cost-effective furnace for your home.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • How each type of furnace works
  • Why you should consult with a professional to help you make the decision

Let’s start by looking at how a standard, non-condensing furnace operates.

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How a non-condensing (conventional) furnace works

A standard furnace sucks in cool air from inside your home, heats the air, then blows warm air throughout your home. The part of your furnace that actually heats the air is called the heat exchanger.

heater exchanger diagram

Inside the heat exchanger, fuel combusts to create heat. As cold air blows over the hot metal coils of the heat exchanger, heat is transferred from the coils to the cold air, warming that air. This warm air is blown back into your home and raises the overall temperature.

During the combustion process, a non-condensing furnace produces water vapor and exhaust gases which exit your home via a flue pipe. This venting system keeps your home safe from any harmful fumes.

As long as the thermostat calls for heat, this heating and combustion cycle will continuously repeat.

Now that you have a high-level overview of how a standard furnace works, let’s look at what makes a condensing furnace different.

How a condensing furnace works

The difference between a non-condensing and condensing furnace is the number of heat exchangers: a non-condensing furnace has one heat exchanger but a condensing furnace has two.

In a condensing furnace, the first heat exchanger works the same way it does in a standard furnace: Fuel combusts inside of the heat exchanger, creating heat and producing water vapor and exhaust fumes as byproducts of the combustion.

But instead of venting these fumes immediately, the water vapor and gases are sent into the second heat exchanger where the water vapor is condensed and turned into a liquid. This transformation of gas to liquid releases heat, which your furnace recycles and uses to warm your home’s air.

Because condensing furnaces use this recycled heat, they end up wasting less fuel than a standard furnace, which makes them more energy efficient. A more energy-efficient furnace will cost less to operate each month, which will save you money over the lifespan of the furnace.

Why you should consult with a professional before you choose a furnace

A professional will take into account several factors that will help you estimate how much you would actually save each month with a condensing furnace. That way, you’ll know if the long-term savings will make up for the higher upfront installation cost. What factors will an HVAC professional look at? An HVAC pro will consider the following:

  • The condition of your home’s ductwork: If your ductwork has major leaks or holes, then your furnace will have to run longer to heat your home, which could negate the savings you’d get from a condensing furnace.
  • The insulation levels of your home: Similar to leaky ducts, homes with poor insulation will make the furnace work harder to keep the home warm, which could cancel out the efficiency gains of a condensing furnace.
  • How long you’re planning on staying in your home: If you don’t plan on living in your home long term (at least 15 years), the higher upfront cost of a condensing furnace might not make sense for you. A professional will help you crunch the numbers to see how much you could potentially save over the lifespan of the furnace.

Ready to consult with a professional?

Schedule an appointment today

Our team of heating comfort specialists are standing by, ready to answer any questions you have. They are trained to give honest, upfront answers and are equipped with the tools to properly recommend a furnace for your home. Learn more about buying a new furnace by visiting our furnace installation page.