Your Furnace Needs to be Efficient -- but How Efficient?With winter well under way in northwest Arkansas, most homeowners are trying to save money on household heating. Lowering energy bills by increasing furnace efficiency is an obvious way to do so. After routine preventive maintenance, though, what more can you do to improve your home heating system?

What Is AFUE?

The first step is understanding furnace efficiency. The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating reflects how well a gas (or oil) furnace converts fuel into heat. The higher the AFUE, the more fuel the furnace (or boiler) turns into heat for your home. The minimum allowable AFUE in a new gas furnace sold in the U.S. is currently 78 percent. High-efficiency, condensing furnaces run from AFUE 90-98 percent. Energy Star certified models start at AFUE 90 percent when sold in Southern states such as Arkansas. The most efficient models cost the most, although that additional investment will lead to lower fuel bills in the long term.

Know Your Needs

In order to calculate furnace efficiency, it’s important to consider climate, gas and electricity rates in your area, and how well your home retains heat. Installing the very most efficient furnaces is usually only cost-effective in areas where the furnace gets a lot of use – typically, Northern states with long, cold winters. In that situation, monthly savings add up more quickly, defraying the high cost of the high-efficiency condensing furnace.

Steps to Take

No matter what model furnace you choose, there are several ways to improve the overall efficiency of your home heating system.

  • Minimize heat loss from ductwork by sealing leaks and insulating ducts.
  • Turn down your thermostat to save energy, especially at night or when you’re away, or use a programmable thermostat to set energy-saving temperatures ahead of time.
  • Keep south- or west-facing windows uncovered during sunny winter days to benefit from free solar heating.
  • Seal air leaks in hour home’s outer perimeter, and add insulation where needed, especially in the attic.

Whatever furnace you choose, consult your HVAC contractor to get an accurate calculation of annual estimated operating costs for different models, including any necessary venting changes. For help assessing furnace efficiency, please contact us at Paschal Heat, Air & Geothermal. We have been serving northwest Arkansas for 45 years.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Springdale, Arkansas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about furnaces and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

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