May 2013 Furnace Efficiency Changes

Effective May 2013, the Michigan Department of Energy has stated that all new furnaces installed have to have at least 90% AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency).  This percentage represents the amount of gas or fuel actually being used to heat your home and not escaping.  Therefore, a 90% efficiency furnace uses 90% of the fuel to heat your home and only lets 10% escape (AFUE, Bryant).  Higher efficiency furnaces are better for the environment and for the wallet in the long run.

Hearing about these updates may seem a little intimidating if you are unsure of what they actually mean or whether you need to pay attention to them.  The good news is that in May 2013 you do not need to run out and change your furnace.  Only furnaces installed after that date must comply with the new standards, yours can be “grandfather’d” in.  However, it is possible that at some point a new furnace will be necessary and so it is best to learn all that this new change entails now.  Cost will be the largest factor in this change.

Higher Initial Investment

A 90% efficiency furnace could run approximately $500 to $800 (an estimation) more on its initial purchase price.  These products are high quality and highly efficient.  In addition, due to the venting demands of these units there could be a higher labor cost as well.

Installation Labor

Older furnaces use the chimney to let out their steam through the chimney.  They were less efficient and the steam released would be up to 700 degrees Farenheit.  This was often coupled with steam from the water heater as well.  Therefore, the high temperatures of the steam demanded the space that the chimney provided.  As furnaces became more and more efficient, the steam cooled down and less space was needed.  That was where the chimney liner came in.  The steam did not need the same amount of space and so a metal liner would be constructed inside the chimney making a smaller, skinner flue for the steam.  Sometimes this is not needed in newer homes, because chimneys are already built smaller.  Without the liner, moisture builds up on the side of the chimney causing moisture and acid to seep into the bricks and mortar holding the chimney together.  Not the best idea.

The high efficiency of the 90% furnace, means that its steams is only about 150 degrees Farenheit, meaning that it does not even use a chimney liner.  Instead, the steam is directly vented to the outside using PVC pipes.  This change in venting from installing a new 90% furnace could be more expensive.  In addition, depending on the set up of your home at this point, a new chimney liner could be necessary to accomodate the steam from the water heater after the new furnace is installed.

PVC Venting

Example of PVC venting

More Savings

Despite the higher costs associated with these high efficiency furnaces, they are more cost effective as they will help to lower utility bills and conserve energy.

All of these elements are things to consider when thinking about when your home will need a new furnace, what kind you want and what standards you have to follow with purchasing it.  Flame will be there with you as we move through these changes.  If you have any comments, questions or concerns please contact Flame!

(*Evolution® System Plus 98m™ Gas Furnace, 98.3% AFUE from Bryant, Above)

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