Efficiency Standards for HVAC Equipment: Are They Going Up Soon?

In an effort to reduce energy consumption, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) worked with a group of utility and HVAC industry experts in 2009 to improve efficiency standards for HVAC equipment. The increased efficiency ratings were to go into place in 2013, but a court order delayed their implementation because the new increased efficiency standards for gas furnaces and boilers would cause financial harm to some homeowners.

The DOE segmented the country based on climate and they raised the minimum annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) for combustion systems installed in northern states, including New York, to 90. The minimum currently stands at 78 and the only kinds of furnaces that have an AFUE of 90 are condensing furnaces. An AFUE of 90 indicates the furnace wastes just 10 percent of the fuel it uses.

While these furnaces do improve the efficiency standards for HVAC equipment, they pose challenges as retrofits for existing homes, townhomes and condominiums. They require different venting than a normal furnace.

A condensing furnace differs from a standard furnace because it has two heat exchangers. The second exchanger extracts the heat from the hot water vapor that burning gas creates and, instead of sending that heat up the chimney, it uses it to warm your home. The vapor condenses and drains into your home’s plumbing.

Their venting requirements make them difficult to retrofit in some situations, especially in attached homes that have limited access to an exterior wall. Such an installation could be costly, and those in the HVAC industry who opposed the new standard successfully argued that the financial burden for some homeowners would be too high.

Currently, the case is working through the court system, and until it’s decided, the minimum efficiency standard for combustion furnaces remains at 78 AFUE. However, homeowners who need to replace their furnaces in our climate can lower fuel consumption by selecting higher AFUE equipment, including condensing furnaces.

To learn more about the efficiency standards for HVAC equipment for your Long Island home, contact the experts at T.F. O’Brien Cooling & Heating. We’ve proudly provided HVAC services to Long Island homeowners since 1934.

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