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Furnace and Heat Pump Staging Explained


Mostly I find that when I get to a customer’s house this is the one thing that requires the most explaining. Not because it is complicated, but because it is the hardest to put into words and for the customer to visualize. 

Furnaces and Heat Pumps come in 3 different staging types; Single Stage, Two Stage and Modulating. Your needs and wants should determine which level you belong at. It is not rare for me to recommend just a Single Stage furnace or Heat Pump, so never let someone tell you that you can’t be happy with something simple. The difference is how comfortable you need or want to be.

Here is a simple analogy that makes it easy to understand staging. I will start with this question; how comfortable would you be in a car that can only go 60 mph? Most would answer, "Uncomfortable". The reason being that if you are in a 25 mph zone you would have to floor the pedal in very short cycles in order to get the car to go 25 mph. This exact same concept works in your home. Ever noticed that when your house just needs “25 mph” of heat it comes on in very short cycles in order to keep your home at the temperature you need? When the furnace comes on do you get a little too hot and then a little too cold and then a little too hot and so on and so forth? If you answered yes, then you would be a good candidate for staging.

Staging allows the furnace to come on at lower BTU settings in order to match the heat your house requires more accurately. For instance, a Two Stage furnace can heat at 42 mph and 60 mph, and a Multi (Modulating) Furnace can heat anywhere from 21 mph to 60 mph making it the most comfortable furnace for those who keep their homes at constant temperatures. Which of these types is the best value for you really depends on the answers to about 20 questions, so just know that when I come to your house we will go over this. 

The second most common question I am asked is, “Does staging make your furnace more efficient?” Here is a simple question; if you take two cars that both get 35 mpg and place in one a teenage driver (single stage furnace) and in another a professional driver (3-stage or multi-stage furnace), which one will actually get better gas mileage? Well, the professional driver of course! That driver is going to be better at acceleration, braking and taking corners, etc. It is not going to be drastic savings but it will be savings. Also, what do you think the wear and tear on that car driven by the professional is going to be compared to the teenager? Much less by far and for all the same reasons as the gains in what I call "operation efficiency".

Having covered how staging makes you more comfortable and the furnace more efficient and reliable, I am often still asked, “So what is the difference?” In response to that question, here is my last wonderful analogy and only some of you will be able to relate to it. Here it goes. It is very hard to explain something you have never experienced. However, the night and day difference between your life without a staging furnace and your life with a staging furnace can be summed up in 4 words: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Like I said, for some of you a light bulb just went off in your minds and you have no further questions. For the rest of you who have never used this miracle sponge and have no clue what I am talking about; go to the store, get one, use it, then know that the difference between the common yellow sponge and the Magic Eraser is about the spread between your single stage furnace and your new "Magic" furnace. ;)

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