Your time has come—you need a new heating system. But, you’re a little uncertain about what to go with. When you’re considering a furnace replacement, there are many factors to think about. Perhaps the most important is how efficient a furnace you want. After all, don’t you want to be comfortable at an affordable price?
But how do you know what’s the most efficient? And does it make a difference whether you get an electric or a gas furnace when it comes to your monthly utility bills?
We’ll dive into this below. You may be surprised to find that the answers to these questions aren’t as simple as you may think. First off when it comes to what efficiency is—the rating of the heating output of the furnace compared to the amount of energy it actually consumes—it makes it sound like you simply want a system with the highest efficiency rating possible. Read on as we uncover what that means.
Understanding Furnace Efficiency Ratings
The first thing you have to understand is how furnaces are rated for their efficiency. When you check out furnace stats, you’ll find an acronym: AFUE. This stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency, and it is the measurement of energy efficiency for all furnace systems.
The rating is shown as a percentage, and it identifies the amount of energy source your furnace is able to convert directly into heat energy, which then gets sent through your home. The remaining energy is “lost” through exhaust. A mid-efficiency gas furnace, then, with an AFUE rating of 80% converts 80% of the natural gas it burns into heat, while losing 20% of that energy through a flue in the form of exhaust.
The Standard for Furnace Efficiency Ratings
Natural gas furnace system efficiency ratings have dramatically increased over the past few years. For a long while, the typical gas furnace was rated around 70% AFUE. If you have a furnace that’s around a decade old, then it likely has an efficiency rating of about 80–85%. Today’s high-efficiency furnaces are often rated in the 90s, with the most efficient condensing furnaces coming in at about 98% AFUE.
One thing to keep in mind here, when considering costs and your budget, is that the higher the efficiency rating is, the more expensive the gas furnace will be to install. But, you’ll have lower energy costs over the lifetime of your system the higher AFUE it has.
When it comes to electric furnaces, no energy is wasted through exhaust. So, all electric furnaces are 100% AFUE.
So Why Shouldn’t Everyone Have an Electric Furnace?
Because that number is a little tricky! Installing an electric furnace is generally less expensive than installing a new gas furnace, so there’s that to consider.
But the reason an electric furnace doesn’t lose any energy is because it doesn’t have any fuel to burn. All the energy used by an electric heating system is converted straight to heat energy. But as a fuel source, electricity is more expensive by unit than natural gas is.
So even though electric furnaces are all rated at 100% AFUE, it can still be much more expensive to operate month-to-month than a mid-efficiency gas-powered furnace with an AFUE of 85%. The best way to decide what’s the perfect fit for your home is to give our pros a call.