What does it mean when someone talks about a “high efficiency” furnace? In simple terms, it refers to how well your furnace turns fuel into heat. You’re paying for the fuel so the better your high-efficiency furnace is at converting into heat, the more money you save.
How much can I save with a high-efficiency furnace?
Let’s put it into really simple terms: if your furnace is operating at 80% efficiency, for every $1 you spend on natural gas, you’re only getting 80 cents worth of heat. That other 20 cents is gone for good. Conversely, if you have a furnace rated at 95% efficiency, you’re losing much less money for the same amount of heat. Since it’s estimated that 60% of a homeowner’s annual energy costs go to heating their home, the cost savings of an efficient furnace can add up very quickly.
Are all high-efficiency furnaces the same? Absolutely not! PRO TIP: make sure your new high-efficiency furnace comes equipped with an electronically commutated motor (ECM) motor. This is the motor that blows the the heating and cooling around as well as circulate the air in your home. According to Natural Resources Canada, ECM motors can use up to 70% less energy than standard motors. There is a bit more expense up front but remember that you’re buying a 16-20 year investment so the long-term savings are well worth it.
What does the AFUE rating mean?
All furnaces are graded using the AFUE rating: the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating. To be considered high-efficiency, furnaces must achieve a score of 90% or higher. History lesson: in 1992 it was regulated that all new furnaces were required to be at least 78% efficient. Before then, it wasn’t uncommon for furnaces to run at 60% efficiency. You know what else happened in 1992? The Ottawa Senators returned to the NHL and lost 70 of their first 84 games. If your home somehow still has a furnace from that time please, please, please consider retiring it in honour of that team that was equally inefficient.
How efficient is my current furnace?
You can check this for yourself. It should be pretty straightforward by looking up the AFUE rating in your furnace manual (who keeps the manual??) or looking for a sticker on the furnace itself. If you have neither of those, here is a quick tip: many manufacturers put their manuals online so do a quick Google search of your furnace make and model and you might be surprised at what comes up. You can do this for most consumer products.
The benefits of a high-efficiency furnace
There are several benefits to making sure you have the most efficient furnace possible:
If you replace an 80% AFUE furnace with a shiny new 95% AFUE one, the energy savings over 15 years could be as much as $2,000-3,000. If you would like to do some quick math to find out exactly how much, there is a great little calculator here.
Yes, this benefit is also about saving money! You may qualify for government rebates and subsidies when buying a new high-efficiency furnace. This is a good comprehensive list of what you may be eligible to receive living in the Ottawa area. Note: your furnace typically needs to be at 96% efficiency to qualify for most rebates.
Help the environment
Greater efficiency means less waste which leads to more money in your pocket and a happier environment for all. Older furnaces have to work much harder to produce the same amount of heat and contribute to the overall pollution in the air.
So there it is, everything you need to know about the high-efficiency furnace. Find out how efficient your current furnace is right now, compare that to the one(s) you’re shopping for and do some quick math to see the benefits.