Most people know that HVAC efficiency is important to reducing energy use and keeping heating bills affordable. In fact, back in 2009, the DOE came together with industry experts to find an effective way to increase the AFUE (annual fuel efficiency utilization) rating by increasing the minimal rating from the current standard of 78 to an AFUE of 90. Unfortunately, even though this increase in AFUE would most certainly help reduce energy use, the financial impact for some families was far too expensive.
In order for homeowners to meet the higher AFUE requirement, existing HVAC equipment would need to be replaced with a higher HVAC efficiency furnace. Currently the only type of furnace that could meet the new higher HVAC efficiency standards is a condensing furnace. These furnaces utilize two heat exchangers, making them exceptionally efficient; however, this efficiency does not come without problems.
Implementation of the higher efficiency HVAC equipment was delayed by a court order. HVAC industry experts argued that adopting these higher AFUE standards would be difficult for some families. Not only would existing homes need to be retrofitted to handle the new type of heating equipment, but the necessary changes would be challenging to complete and the cost could be quite high.
Condensing furnaces utilize two heat exchangers as well as a completely different venting system. The condensing furnace is designed to utilize the condensed vapor from hot water created during the process of burning gas. This heat source is typically lost up the chimney in a traditional gas furnace, but the condensing furnace is able to use it to help heat the home. These differences from a typical combustible furnace mean that extensive retrofitting would be necessary in order to accommodate the higher AFUE condensing furnace. Additionally, in attached homes, the required modifications can be even further complicated because access to outside walls is often limited in these homes.
With the high cost of retrofitting a home, the courts have delayed implementation of the higher AFUE standards; however, as the case goes through court, it is anyone’s guess what the future might hold. Homeowners who are interested in increasing energy efficiency or who need HVAC services should contact their local HVAC contractor.