A No Nonsense, Wintertime Guide to Furnaces

Winter is here! This time of year brings new challenges and one of them is how to efficiently stay warm with a good furnace and overall HVAC system. If you have an older furnace in your home, you will want to take a look at its efficiency. Give it a good inspection by a company that specializes in such things and consider upgrading. It is important to be proactive in this area of your home comfort spend because electricity and fuel sources are not getting any less expensive.

This blog is dedicated to keeping you educated in regard to HVAC and how to spend your money wisely for installations, maintenance, and repair. Providing information is just the beginning though. Taking action and doing something to decrease your overall expenditure and increasing the performance of your HVAC system is the key to success.

Efficiency Ratings

As you search for upgrades or the initial installation furnace of your choice, understand there are efficiency ratings attached to manufacturer’s offerings. Teach yourself and learn about the Annual Fuel Utilization Rating(AFUE). This rating is the guideline and standard for furnaces, boilers, and water heaters.

Let’s take a look into exactly what the AFUE is. Boilers, furnaces and water heaters use electricity or burn fuels. The AFUE is a measurement expressed in a percentage that defines how efficiently the unit utilizes its energy source compared to the amount of heat generated. The AFUE is not an expression of peak performance efficiency, but is a measurement of the unit’s seasonal, average efficiency.

Peak performance of any appliance is impacted by several factors such as insulation, how far water travels, the cleanliness and energy producing power of fuels, and the technology inherent in the product. Because of these factors, a one time, peak performance measurement is not what we want to insure we are getting the most out of the product. We want to see how the furnace or other appliance performs over time, under a variety of circumstances.

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers(ASHRAE)

The Annual Fuel Utilization Rating(AFUE) was infused into the HVAC market by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers(ASHRAE). This organization is a professional organization that functions globally to advance the HVAC industry and provide standards and guidelines for the design, installation, and maintenance of HVAC products.

The AFUE is an expression of the ratio between the energy being put into the system compared to the energy output. Essentially, a rating of 90% AFUE will mean the unit will output 90 British Thermal Units of heat for every 100 BTUs of energy input. The remaining 10% is a measurement of the exhaust.

The higher the AFUE, the more efficiently the unit will transfer input energy into output energy.

Electrical Ignition Systems

This is a smart way to go for essentially two reasons. If you have an old furnace, it is mostly likely maintaining the presence of a constant flame that burns fuel continuously. This is inefficient. Newer technologies make use of a controlled resistance heating element that ignites a gas burner when demanded. This is an electrical ignition system and it utilizes less fuel over time.

Variable Speed Blower

Traditional furnaces were built with a fixed speed blower. The unit was either on or off. When it was on, it could only function at its peak performance level. This maximum capacity workload caused mechanical parts to break down sooner.

Variable speed blowers work at different speeds based on the data being processed by a central control device. It responds to conditions such as dirty filters by increasing fan speed and is more responsive to individual differences in the home.

Variable speed blowers use less energy and are more quiet than older air movement systems. An added advantage is the fact that even when the unit is not heating, air is kept moving and this increases indoor air quality in your home.

Condensing Furnaces

Older furnaces gave off exhaust, gas, and heat to vents that led outside. A condensing furnace has the ability to capture the exhaust and cycle it back to the combustion chamber. This decreases the amount of exhaust and potential contaminants to the environment and will ultimately use less energy as gases and exhaust are reused to create heat.

A condensing furnace has a higher initial cost, but because it uses energy efficiently, the system will save money over time.