In the average American home, heating and cooling costs can account for up to 50 percent of a family’s utility budget. In places like Colorado, where winter weather is more extreme than summer weather, a furnace may be responsible for most of these charges.
In heating and cooling energy efficiency is what matters, and if your current furnace isn’t efficient you may want to make a change.
AFUE: The Gold Standard of Furnace Efficiency
AFUE is an acronym that stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency, and it is the primary measuring standard used to determine the energy efficiency of a natural gas furnace. AFUE is expressed as a percentage; specifically, it is the percentage of useful heat produced (in British Thermal Units, or BTUs) for each BTU of natural gas consumed during the normal operation of a furnace.
A modern, superior-quality, high-efficiency gas furnace may have an AFUE rating of 95-98.5, which means that only a small percentage (1.5-5 percent) of the natural gas it consumes is wasted during the combustion process. The rest is converted directly into useful heat that can be distributed throughout your home. From a cost-benefit standpoint, a furnace with an AFUE rating of 98 would only produce two cents of waste for every dollar you spent on heating bills.
Many people choose to buy gas furnaces with AFUE ratings in the 78-81 range. These units are widely available and cost less than true high-efficiency models.
But folks who choose the cheaper option often fail to consider the savings that higher efficiency furnaces can bring. A furnace with an AFUE rating of 98 could save them up to 20 percent on their heating bills each and every month during the heating season, which can last for as long as six months in northern or mountainous regions.
Needless to say, over time savings like this can really add up, enough to make the high-efficiency furnace a much better investment in the long run.
If your existing furnace was purchased any time within the last 15 years, it should have a yellow label attached that will reveal its AFUE rating plus specific data about how much energy it might be saving you in comparison to less efficient models. If your furnace is older and has no such label, you can safely assume it is operating at far less than 80 percent efficiency and is needlessly costing you money.
The Importance of Furnace Maintenance
Unfortunately, AFUE ratings are only theoretical if regular furnace maintenance is not made a priority. Research shows that operating efficiency can drop by up to five percent for every year that basic furnace maintenance is neglected, so this is not a minor consideration.
Before every heating season, you should contact your HVAC contractor to schedule an appointment for a tune-up and maintenance. During these annual visits, a trained HVAC technician will clean, test and inspect your furnace and ductwork from top to bottom and everywhere in between, and if any additional repairs are needed they can be arranged at that time. Clean ductwork is essential for good air flow, and you shouldn’t forget about having your ducts checked from time to time.
Proper furnace maintenance is your responsibility as well, and you can contribute to the health of your appliance by changing your HVAC filters at the beginning of every heating season. Clogged filters will force furnaces to work harder, and that can cause your heating bills to climb rapidly. To guarantee reliable performance you should avoid cheap fiberglass filters, which get dirty quickly and don’t work efficiently even when they’re brand new.
Rheem Pro Partners is Pro-Energy-Efficiency
Furnace maintenance is a Rheem Pro Partners specialty, so we invite you to contact us today to arrange your annual tune-up and inspection. In Colorado and Wyoming we are the premier dealer of high-quality, high-efficiency gas furnaces from Rheem, the preeminent name in the HVAC industry, and if decide you’d like to purchase a new energy-efficient furnace we can help you select the best option for your home and budget.