Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE): The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating, indicates how well a furnace converts energy into usable heat. The rating is expressed as a percentage of the annual output of heat (output rating in Btus — British thermal units, a measure of energy) to the annual energy input to the furnace (input rating in Btus).
Ratings can be categorized in the following way:
Ratings between 84 and 89 percent are not common. Acidic condensate, harmful to the furnace, forms at these percentages. Public Law No. 100-12, passed in1987, requires that all gas furnaces manufactured after January 1, 1992, have a minimum AFUE of 78 percent.
Atmospheric Vent Combustion: If a chimney is available, furnaces with this system are the least expensive to install. Atmospheric vent furnaces have AFUEs of 60-65 percent when equipped with standing pilots, and AFUEs of 63-70 percent when equipped with electronic ignition systems.With special vent dampers, atmospheric vent units can achieve AFUEs of 78-80 percent.
Condensing (or Recuperative Units): These units are super efficient with some designs reaching AFUEs of up to 97 percent. Unlike conventional forced air furnaces, condensing units capture most of the water vapor and heat contained in hot flue gases that would normally escape up the chimney. The escaping gases then pass through a second heat exchanger and condensate is expelled. The heat exchangers are made of corrosion resistant stainless steel, and many have lifetime warranties. Exhaust is cooler than that of conventional furnaces and can be vented with PVC piping.
Downflow or Counterflow Furnace: These units have a blower at the top to draw air into the furnace. Heated air is blown out at the bottom. This type of furnace is used to supply floor duct systems.
Electronic Ignition: An electronic ignition eliminates the need for an energy-wasting standing pilot. Fuel is used only when needed. The pilot is ignited with an electric spark.
Heat Exchanger: The heat exchanger is a metal chamber in the furnace that houses a gas burner. The flame produced by the burner heats the chamber. When the outside of the chamber becomes hot, the air surrounding it is warmed and used to heat the house. Improved designs enhance efficiency and provide quieter operation.
Horizontal Flow Furnace: Air travels horizontally from one side of the heater, across the heat exchanger, and hot air is blown out the other side. This type of furnace is installed in areas with limited head room, such as attics or crawl spaces. They can also be installed below floors or suspended below ceilings.
Non-weatherproof: These units are designed to be installed indoors.
Power Combustion: In this system, combustion is produced by a blower. The blower pushes the combustion gases through the vent, and regulates the amount of combustion air. Power combustion furnaces do not require a draft hood. This reduces off-cycle losses and improves efficiency. Many power combustion furnaces operate at 78-80 percent AFUE. When equipped with an additional heat exchanger, they can operate at AFUEs of 90-96 percent.
Pulse Combustion: (These models are listed under condensing furnaces.) Pulse combustion is produced by self-perpetuated “pulses.” This unique system mixes air and fuel in a sealed combustion chamber. A spark ignites the mixture, and the resulting increase in pressure closes the gas/air inlet valve. The combustion products are forced through an exhaust pipe and the pressure in the combustion chamber drops, re-opening the inlet valve. The next combustion cycle is ignited by the heat remaining from the previous cycle. This process repeats itself about 60 times per second. Furnaces with this combustion system have AFUEs from 91-97 percent. Exhaust gases, at 100-200 degrees Fahrenheit, are cool enough to vent through PVC piping.
Sealed Combustion: Sealed combustion systems draw in all the air used for combustion from the outside, and exhaust gases are direct vented to the outside. Since cold outside air is not mixed with the warm indoor air during combustion, efficiency is enhanced. Furnaces with this type of combustion system have an AFUE range of 70-80 percent.
Upflow Furnace: These units have blowers at bottom that draw air into the furnace. Heated air is blown out at the top. These heaters can be installed in utility rooms, closets or basements.
Vent Damper: The vent damper is a “flapper” device installed in the flue. When the heat demand has been met, the damper closes, trapping residual heat for circulation in the home. When heat is needed, the damper opens before the burners are ignited to allow combustion fumes to escape. The damper remains open only as long as the burners are on. Burners cannot ignite if the damper is closed.
Weatherproof: These units are designed to be installed outdoors.
-Definitions courtesy of The National Propane Gas Association
Heating bills across the country are the highest they have ever been, with out any relief in sight. Even if your older furnace runs, from an economic standpoint it would be wise to replace it. With the proper furnace selection, your central air-conditioning bills can be lower too.
Compared with a 17-year-old furnace, a new furnace can save the typical family hundreds of dollars per year. Based on the efficiency of your old furnace, probably 60% at best, a new furnace can cut your utility bills by 40%. You can do the arithmetic to determine your annual savings.
Not only will you have lower utility bills, but the comfort and quiet operation of a new system will surprise you. The contractor should install a computerized thermostat with it. This thermostat, coupled with the electronic controls in the new furnace, will maintain even room temperatures.
You can choose from two basic designs of furnaces: condensing and non-condensing. The condensing models (this refers to the type of heat exchanger used) are the most efficient and the best choice for most homeowners. The efficiencies of condensing models range from about 90% to over 95%.
These models are very efficient, and so little heat is lost in the flue gases that a chimney is not needed. The gases are exhausted by a 2-inch-diameter plastic pipe through an outdoor wall. With no need for a new chimney liner, a condensing furnace is often cheaper to install.
Some models also offer sealed combustion for better efficiency. The combustion air is drawn in from outdoors through another plastic pipe instead of being drawn from inside your house. Being sealed, there are fewer indoor drafts, less noise and less chance of hazardous back drafting.
For the ultimate in comfort and efficiency, but at a higher initial cost, is a two-stage heat output furnace with a variable-speed blower. This type of blower is needed if you want the best central air-conditioning.
In all but the coldest weather, the gas burners operate at a low heat level. This allows the furnace to run more continuously with fewer uncomfortable on/off cycles. The blower also runs slower and quieter at this low level. During very cold weather, it automatically switches to high heat.
If your budget allows, also install a quality air cleaner. Since a two-stage unit runs more, the air cleaner is more effective for allergy sufferers.
Purchasing a new heating system for your home can be a nerve racking task. If it’s time to replace an aging or worn out furnace we are here to help make the process easier for you.
A heating system is one of the biggest uses of energy in your home but it doesn’t have to be as costly. A furnace’s performance is measured by System Efficiency Ratio (SER™). SER™is a relatively new standard in the air conditioning and heating industry. It’s an efficiency rating of your installed system, including the effects of the ducting and the construction of your home. To read more information about SER™ click here.
Before quoting to replace your existing furnace, as an NCI certified contractor we measure the SER™ of your system. The test reveals the ratio of actual heating delivery compared to the rated amount the equipment produced when the manufacturer tested the equipment. For example if a furnace worked perfectly, it would be rated at a HSER™ of 100%. But if it only delivered half the heating, the HSER would be 50%. In simple terms, a 14 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) furnace could only operate like 7 SEER equipment.
We test your equipment first to determine the problem with your system then we recommend the best solution for you.
Before replacing just the furnace, we look at your house as a whole because your furnace is only one part that affects the SER™. We look at the ductwork and the construction of your home because if any one piece of your system isn’t up to top shape it can affect your SER™, your comfort, and can cost you money.
After analyzing your house and the system we will recommend the best solution for you. It is not uncommon to find the ductwork needs fixing or replacement or other problems caused by your house. But when these problems are fixed and the right furnace installed you will notice the difference in your comfort and your energy bills.
We look at the whole picture to ensure that you receive the best possible comfort system.