Home furnace blower with ignited pilot light

How Does a Furnace Work?

December 8, 2016

Whether you love winter or hate it, there’s no getting around the fact that furnaces are the gatekeepers of home comfort for many Omaha homeowners during the cold weather. However, if you ask most Nebraskans how their furnaces work, chances are you’ll be met with a blank stare.

It’s the same for all Americans, as we often take for granted the heating systems that keep us warm throughout the winter. Yet getting to know the inner workings of your furnace can be very helpful for improving home performance and saving you money on your heating bill.

So, how does a furnace actually work? Well, it’s more than just turning a knob.

Basic Operation

Infographic from American Energy Advisors about how a furnace works in Elkhorn, NE

While all furnaces are unique to themselves, they do tend to all operate in the same basic way. Furnaces work by blowing hot air through ductwork, which delivers the conditioned air to rooms around the home.

Within a gas or oil furnace, fuel is combined with air and then burned, creating flames that heat a metal heat exchanger. This heat is then transferred to the air via an air handler fan, which pushes it through your home’s ductwork. Meanwhile, products of combustion are vented outside.

The Importance of Sizing

When it comes to installing a new furnace in a home, one of the most important factors to consider before making a purchase is sizing. Most people assume that the solution to ensuring a furnace is the right size is to buy one that’s bigger than what the home could ever truly require. However, this actually causes more harm than good. Although a rare occurrence, a furnace that’s too small will also have to work overtime on cold days and nights, which will inevitably result in shortened lifespan and a reduction in overall efficiency.

Once a heating system is properly sized for the home, you can rest easy knowing that it’s doing its job the way it should be—American Energy Advisors can help get you there.

AFUE Rating

Another important thing to note about your furnace is the AFUE rating, which stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Similar in many ways to SEER ratings for your air conditioner, an AFUE rating is used to measure the efficiency of your furnace and is listed as a percentage of the amount of fuel it’s capable of converting into usable heat.

If the furnace has an AFUE rating of 90%, this means that roughly 90% of its fuel translates into energy that the home can use. For example, old outdated cast iron furnaces have an AFUE rating of around 60%, while mid-efficiency models come in between 83-89%.  

At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” furnace or air conditioner—it all depends upon your home.

Contact us today to learn more about which furnace may be right for your home or to schedule an appointment with one of our heating specialists.

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