The AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating is often one of the first things you'll see when looking at any new furnace. The AFUE provides an at-a-glance indication of a furnace's ability to convert its fuel source into heat for your home. A higher AFUE rating means a furnace is more efficient and will cost you less to run each month.
In practice, furnaces tend to fall into two broad categories: standard efficiency and high efficiency. Standard efficiency models usually cluster around the minimum federally regulated AFUE requirement, while high-efficiency models have much higher ratings. If you're stuck deciding between these options, here are three reasons to choose a high-efficiency model for your home.
1. "Sweet Spot" Pricing
Standard efficiency models usually come with an AFUE rating of about 80%. This requirement is federally mandated, so you won't usually find a furnace with a lower rating in a big box store or heating supplies warehouse. These models will burn more energy to keep your home warm and only offer one advantage: low upfront pricing.
However, high-efficiency models allow you to find a "sweet spot" for your home. By looking at energy prices in your area, you can likely find a higher efficiency furnace that will pay back its added installation cost and then some over the unit's life. As a result, you'll save more on your purchase despite paying a higher initial cost.
2. Predictable Monthly Utility Costs
One concern with standard efficiency models is that they make you more vulnerable to local energy pricing fluctuations. The cost of natural gas tends to fluctuate quite a bit based on numerous factors, all of which are largely out of your control. A standard efficiency furnace may not seem expensive at the current prices, but that can quickly change if the cost of natural gas increases in your area.
While natural gas will cost the same amount whether you use a high-efficiency or standard-efficiency model, those price fluctuations will have a much smaller impact on your bottom line with a more efficient furnace. Since you're using less gas to heat your home, an increase in fuel costs won't cause wild swings in your budget.
3. Improved Comfort
You don't need to worry about a standard efficiency furnace keeping you warm. No matter where you live, a straightforward single-stage standard-efficiency furnace will be more than adequate to keep your house cozy during the winter. Unfortunately, these units rely on a brute-force approach that can sometimes create noticeable swings between hot and cold.
Higher-efficiency furnaces typically use variable blowers and multi-stage burners, with higher-end models utilizing fully variable burners. These features allow the furnace to vary its heating output, creating more consistent temperatures. While this difference may not be huge, it's yet another reason why high-efficiency furnaces are often a great choice.
To learn more, contact a professional heating contractor in your area.