If you’re considering an upgrade to your furnace, an important first step is to settle on an efficiency rating. This will have an effect on your up-front costs and what you pay for home heating as time goes on. Use this guide to learn more about AFUE ratings and how they affect you.
AFUE is short for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. It is a measure of how efficiently a furnace or boiler switches fuel into heat for your home over the course of a year. The higher the AFUE rating (on a scale of 0% to 100%), the more efficient the system is at converting fuel into usable heat.
AFUE ratings are estimated by calculating the ratio of the output of heat from the furnace or boiler to the amount of fuel it requires in the process. This calculation takes into account the energy lost through exhaust gases, radiation and other factors that decrease efficiency. The result is displayed as a percentage, representing the share of fuel converted into heat.
Determining a heating system’s AFUE rating involves conducting a standard test cycle to assess the heat output and fuel consumption. This test cycle is structured to simulate typical heating conditions over the year, including both hot and cold periods. The heating system then functions at full capacity for an extensive period to define its peak performance.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has slowly increased HVAC efficiency ratings over the last several decades in an effort to encourage energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2023, the minimum rating for new gas furnaces changed to 81 AFUE. From 2015 to 2022, the South and Southwest regions had a minimum rating of 80 AFUE, and the North mandated furnaces to be rated 90 AFUE or greater. Better AFUE ratings reduce energy consumption, lowers utility bills and reduces the environmental consequence of heating your home.
When researching for new furnaces, you may find many models around 80 and 90 AFUE, but not much in between. This is as a result of the technology necessary to exceed 80 AFUE creates a considerable rise in performance.
The 80 AFUE threshold has been the minimum criteria for gas furnaces in the United States since the 1990s. At this level, furnaces convert 80% of the fuel they consume into heat, with the remaining 20% forfeited to the atmosphere through the flue.
Gas furnaces must incorporate more advanced technology to achieve higher AFUE ratings, such as two-stage or modulating gas valves, variable-speed blowers and alternate heat exchangers. These features help the furnace grab heat from the fuel source more effectively, increasing efficiency from 80 to 90 AFUE or higher. Today’s best furnaces cap out at around 98.5 AFUE.
The cost of a furnace with a higher AFUE rating is typically more than that of a lower AFUE-rated furnace. Basically, more innovative technologies come at a cost. The exact cost difference depends on the furnace manufacturer, size and efficiency rating.
When considering the up-front cost of a more efficient furnace, don’t forget the ongoing energy savings that awaits you. The potential to save money on energy bills for the next ten years or longer helps you to recoup the additional up-front investment.
Though a higher AFUE rating results in more effective home heating and reduced energy bills, we are not saying all homeowners should purchase a 95 AFUE furnace. Listed below are some factors to take into account when contrasting costs and efficiency ratings:
• Seasonal weather conditions: The colder the weather, the more frequently your high-efficiency furnace operates, and the sooner it will provide a return on investment. For that reason, higher AFUE ratings are most appropriate in cold climates that require more heating than cooling to sustain a comfortable indoor temperature.
• How long will you live there?: If you imagine living in your home for many years, choosing a high-efficiency furnace might be a smart investment because it will pay for itself over the coming years in energy savings. But, if you plan to move in the near future, the extra cost of a higher AFUE-rated furnace may not be worth it.
• Energy prices: The affect of an efficient furnace is more noticeable if your energy costs are high. You’ll experience noticeable savings as your furnace converts a higher percentage of fuel into usable heat for your home.
If you’re looking for the ideal furnace system for your needs and budget, rely on Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing. We can help you figure out the initial costs and long-term benefits of different AFUE ratings to guide your decision. We’re so confident you’ll be satisfied with our services that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule a complimentary furnace installation estimate, please get in touch with a Service Experts office near you.
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