The Energy Efficient Furnace Showdown

Whether you’re trying to help the environment or save some money on your heating bills, an energy efficient furnace can be an investment that pays off environmentally and financially. There are many misconceptions about what energy-efficient heating sources mean and what different percentages in this industry mean. In this article, we’ll discuss the meaning of energy efficiency and how that relates to heating furnaces.

What does energy efficient mean?

Energy efficiency essentially means that a furnace or other appliance uses resources as efficiently as possible. For refrigerators, this might mean that the appliance uses electricity as efficiently as possible. For air conditioners, it might mean that they use coolant and electricity as efficiently as possible. When it comes to furnaces, energy efficiency refers to having a high degree of AFUE compared to other furnaces.

Energy efficiency essentially means that a furnace produces a higher percentage of annual fuel utilization efficiency (also known as AFUE) than a standard furnace. This leads to using a lower amount of fuel than a furnace that is less efficient in energy. Furnaces that use more fuel cost more money to run all winter long. Additionally, they have a larger impact on the environment since they use up limited resources at a faster and greater rate than energy-efficient furnaces. 

A regular furnace typically produces about 80% AFUE. A furnace with higher energy efficiency would provide roughly 90%-95% of AFUE comparatively. While it might seem at face value that a furnace with 80% AFUE is automatically less efficient than one with 90% AFUE, there are other factors to consider beyond AFUE when determining energy efficiency. 

The processes that different furnaces use range from vacuuming in air from the area around the furnace called open combustion to sealed combustion. Sealed combustion entails obtaining air from outside through a specific PVC pipe. 

What should homeowners consider when upgrading to an energy-efficient furnace?

For many homeowners, cost is the largest determining factor in choosing a new appliance. While we all want to help the environment, some of us have less wiggle room in our budgets to do so. When one is replacing a furnace that has 80% AFUE in an area that is vented or small, it can be financially burdensome. After all, you are converting to an appliance that not only needs to be installed on its own but also needs pipes installed to allow for air to come into the unit. This increases the overall cost.

Another major factor that homeowners should consider when upgrading their furnaces for energy efficiency is potential safety risks. Open combustion can create problems related to safety in sealed spaces without proper ventilation. Between the expense of converting to a 95% furnace in a small space and the hazard to your well-being that an 80% furnace poses in the same kind of environment, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons for yourself. It’s a call only you can make.