Modulating Furnaces: Are They Worth the Money?

If you’re up-to-date with the modern furnaces on today’s market, you’ll know that there are three types that make it up: single-stage, two-stage and modulating. Though they all perform the same task, each one completes it in a different way. Modulating furnaces are considered some of the most efficient gas furnaces around, but does that mean they’re worth the upgrade? If you’ve currently got a single or two-stage furnace at home or are considering a new HVAC system altogether, we’ll help you better understand whether a modulating furnace can truly live up to the promises of more efficient and comforting heating throughout your house.


How They Work

To understand how a modulating gas furnace works, it’s important to familiarize yourself with single and two-stage furnaces. A single-stage furnace has two settings: on and off. When powered on, it performs at 100% capacity, heating your home until the desired temperature is reached and then shuts off. A two-stage furnace takes it one step further. In addition to running at full capacity, it also has a second function that allows it to perform at half-capacity, making it more efficient and less intrusive.

A modulating furnace takes the idea of a two-stage furnace and expands on it to include multiple capacity settings. Just as its name suggests, it modulates. Much like the gas pedal on a car, it can be adjusted depending on the situation. If you’re driving uphill and need more power, you can apply pressure to the gas pedal. Similarly, if it’s cold outside and your home requires more heat, a modulating furnace responds by increasing power in increments of as little as 1%. Typically, they function from around 40% up to 100%. This, in turn, provides optimal and highly customizable heating.


Modulating furnaces work best at giving us the ultimate comfort level. Depending on how cold it is outside, how big your house is and how much insulation it has, a modulating furnace will work accordingly—it only works as much as it has to and only consumes as much gas as it needs to. This means it is effective and efficient at providing your home with heat without draining fuel and repeating the start and stop cycle so common in a single or two-stage furnace. Because of this, the noise made my a modulating furnace is much quieter and less distracting.


Because a modulating furnaces provides an increase in function from a two-stage unit, the price also increases accordingly. A two-stage unit may be more effective and expensive than a single-stage furnace, but it’s a modulating furnace that ultimately tops the list, and for good reason: with the increase in performance and price comes an increase in efficiency.

A modulating gas furnace better utilizes fuel and it can ultimately have a positive impact on your utility bills. The savings on your monthly gas bill can also serve to offset the initial price of the unit plus installation in the long run.

Who Can Benefit?

If you plan on living in your home for a long time to come, the return on investment is well worth it when purchasing a modulating gas furnace. They’re certainly more expensive than their single and two-stage counterparts, but the efficiency cannot be beat, especially if you’re living in a newly built home.

Though modulating furnaces perform well in more modern homes built within the last 30 to 40 years, houses built beyond that won’t necessarily experience a benefit from this type of system and it may not be the most logical choice. In these cases, a single or two-stage furnace can provide the correct technology that compliments the age of your home.

Ultimately, if the price is right and you have access to gas in your area, a modulating furnace performs leaps and bounds better than a single or two-stage furnace and can provide your home with optimal heating with next to no noise.

#Picture Credit: Washington Energy Services

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