The term variable-speed is used to describe furnaces with a more energy-efficient, variable-speed blower motor. These blower motors move heated air in winter and cooled air in summer through the ductwork in your home.
A conventional single-speed furnace without this technology uses a simple motor with multiple speed settings that must be manually adjusted. Conversely, a variable-speed furnace will self-adjust its fan speed.
Unlike conventional fan motors, a variable-speed blower motor runs at different speeds to precisely control the flow of heated or cooled air throughout your home. Better airflow control means a better temperature and humidity balance.
The variable-speed motor uses advanced technology to constantly monitor data coming from your heating and cooling system, and it automatically makes adjustments necessary to meet your comfort needs. It varies the amount of circulated air by increasing the fan speed, thus compensating for factors like dirty filters or blocked vents.
Simply put, it delivers just the right amount of air for the right level of heating and cooling comfort.
How Advancements in Furnace Technology Impact Homeowners
Technological innovations in heating and cooling have changed the game quite a bit, and variable-speed technology is one of the innovations playing a major role. More and more systems today are available with various advanced technologies, and there are many reasons why they are so appealing.
Most of the higher efficiency heating and cooling systems today achieve their ratings with variable-speed technology. Single-speed systems actually waste energy by turning on and off more often and running at full speed when they are on. Variable-speed systems are able to run their heating or cooling cycles nearly continuously on lower speeds, which uses less electricity.
This type of advanced furnace motor can be 80-85% more energy efficient than a standard furnace motor. This saves you money on your utility bills, and you may even qualify for local utility company rebates.
Longer heating and cooling cycles created by variable-speed motors help keep the air in your home consistently closer to the temperature set on your thermostat. This results in steady comfort with fewer hot and cold spots in the house.
In comparison, single-speed systems turn on at full blast to reach the right temperature, and then shut off when the temperature is met. When the temperature drops, the system turns on again and the cycle continues with up and down temperature swings.
Enhanced Humidity Control
In the summer, humid, sticky air can make you more uncomfortable than the actual hot temperatures. While all central air conditioners remove some humidity from indoor air during the cooling process, some do a better job than others.
Variable-speed systems are more efficient at humidity control than standard systems. Because they operate for longer periods of time, they’re able to remove additional moisture from the air, so you feel cooler and more comfortable.
Improved Air Quality
All indoor comfort systems have some sort of air filter, typically in or near the indoor air handler unit. Because systems with variable-speed technology run nearly continuously, they allow your air filters to capture more contaminants. Consequently, the air inside your home is also being filtered almost continuously. The result is cleaner, fresher indoor air.
More Things to Note about Variable-Speed Systems
As an added bonus, a variable-speed furnace is much quieter since it does not operate at 100% capacity every time it runs. The motor gradually ramps up to full speed, which eliminates the sudden, noisy blast of air associated with standard furnace motors. It also reduces stress on the mounting hardware.
Be aware, however, these advanced systems can come at a higher cost, and there could be compatibility issues with your current ductwork.
There was a time when HVAC was simple: a furnace heated your home, an air conditioner cooled it, and just about everybody had one of those round, dial-a-temperature thermostats that were straightforward and easy to use.
If you are in the market for a new furnace, recognize there are several options for your consideration, including variable-speed furnaces. Ask your trusted certified HVAC technician if this is right for your home and your budget.
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