Furnace Efficiency Standards Will Go Up, but When?

In the United States, manufacturers of boilers, furnaces, heat pumps and other heating appliances are required to meet minimum government efficiency standards. The dominant element in home heating is still the old standby conventional gas furnace. As a result, raising the bar on furnace efficiency standards, in particular, can deliver the biggest benefits in energy cost savings for homes using furnaces and in reducing global carbon emission levels.Furnace Efficiency Standards Will Go Up Sometime, but When?

New Efficiency Standards

The current standard for gas furnaces is 78 percent AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). This means that the equipment is rated to produce 78 units of heat for every 100 units of fuel consumed. A push to raise gas furnace efficiency standards from 78 to anywhere between 80 and 90 percent AFUE has been in the cards for many years but has repeatedly stalled, most recently as a result of a federal court decision last spring.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) set out to issue a new standard in 2007, raising the minimum efficiency standard for residential gas furnaces from 78 to 80 percent AFUE. Litigation by various intereted parties challenged the new standard as being inadequate.
  • The Obama administration sent DOE back to the drawing board and an 80/90 AFUE proposal was established. Colder Northern states would be required to have at least 90 percent AFUE for gas furnaces while warmer Southern states would only need a minimum of 80 percent. This was due for implementation in May 2013, along with stricter efficiency levels for A/Cs and heat pumps.
  • However, in 2013 litigation by several industry groups stalled the new standards again. Plaintiffs pointed out that to achieve the higher 90 percent AFUE rating, manufacturing would have to switch from noncondensing to condensing furnace technology. This would be costly for homeowners who’d have to pay for modifications to venting and other components in order to install a new condensing furnace.

The federal case remained in federal court limbo as of early 2014, with no resolution in the foreseeable future. So for now, the minimum AFUE for residential gas furnaces remains 78 percent. For an efficient Energy Star-certified furnace, however, the standards begin at AFUE 90 percent in Southern States and 95 percent in the North.

For professional advice about gas furnace efficiency standards and any matters related to cooling and heating in your Cleveland area home, please contact us at Geisel Heating, Air Conditioning and Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Cleveland, Ohio about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about furnace efficiency and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

For those Do it Yourselfers who would rather take control of your own indoor comfort, you can shop our online store for replacement parts, products and accessories!

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