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Overview of Home Furnace Efficiency Ratings

Replacing the home furnace is not something most of us look forward to doing. It an unexpected expense and usually happens at the worst possible time.  The good news is that home furnaces are more energy efficient than ever.  While this may provide little comfort as you write out a check to the installer, you will most likely save money in the end through lower electricity and natural gas bills.  When purchasing a new furnace or heating system, understanding energy efficiency ratings is important to ensuring you reduce your energy usage.

Average Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE)

AFUE is not as complicated as it may sound. It simply tells you percentage of energy used that goes to producing heat.  AFUE, therefore, also tells us how much fuel is wasted when heating our homes.  If your furnace has an AFUE rating of 80%, then the furnace converts of 80% of the fuel consumed into heat.  The other 20% is wasted.  The wasted heat exits your home through the exhaust flue. Of course, you want to minimize wasted fuel so you should buy a furnace with higher AFUE ratings.  Some high-efficiency models have AFUE ratings of 96% or higher.  Older models might have an AFUE closer to 60%.  Therefore, you can dramatically lower your heating bill with a newer furnace.

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF)

If you heat your home with an electric heat pump, then HSPF is the efficiency rating you need to consider. When shopping for a heat pump, your will see two efficiency ratings.  SEER is a measure of its cooling efficiency while HSPF deals with heating efficiency.  HSPF is a comparison of the BTU’s of thermal output to how many watts of electricity are consumed in creating that output.  Newer heat pumps have an HSPF of 7.7 or higher.  An HSPF of 10 denotes the most efficient heat pumps.

Lowering Heating Costs

Once you have selected a high efficiency home furnace or heat pump, there are still a few things you need to do to maximize your energy savings. First, make sure you take the time to keep heat inside your home.  Simple steps like caulking windows and replacing door seals can go a long way to reducing heat loss.  Also, do not forget to have your ductwork inspected.  Ductwork problems can be a major source of heat loss.  If you install a new furnace, it is a great time to have that same professional make sure your ducts are well-insulated and in good order.

Second, consider installing a smart thermostat to optimize the operation of your furnace or heat pump. Installing a high efficiency furnace only means that the furnace is good at converting fuel into heat.  A learning thermostat adapts the operation of the furnace to your lifestyle and comfort preferences.

Finally, be sure to shop for low natural gas and electricity rates. If you are in an area open to customer choice, shopping for low energy rates is easy and can make a big difference with your monthly gas and electricity bills. If you live in an area without energy choice, check with your utility to make sure you are on the right tariff.  Also, regardless of where you live, contact your utility to find out if there are any energy efficiency rebates or incentives available on heating system upgrades.

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