If you’re realizing that it’s time to upgrade your furnace, one of the first steps is to determine an efficiency rating. This will impact your up-front costs and what you pay for home heating in the future. Use this guide to learn more about AFUE ratings and how they affect you.
AFUE is an acronym for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. It is a measure of how efficiently a furnace or boiler converts fuel into heat for your home within a year. The higher the AFUE rating (on a scale of 0% to 100%), the more efficient the system is at converting fuel into usable heat.
AFUE ratings are measured by calculating the ratio of a furnace’s heat output to the fuel it consumes in the process. This calculation accounts for the energy lost through exhaust gases, radiation and other elements that reduce efficiency. The result is expressed as a percentage, representing the amount of fuel converted into heat.
Calculating a heating system’s AFUE rating includes conducting a common test cycle to assess the heat output and fuel consumption. This test cycle is designed to simulate ordinary heating conditions over the year, including both on and off periods. The heating system then functions at maximum capacity for an extended period to establish its peak performance.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has gradually increased HVAC efficiency ratings over the past few decades in an effort to promote energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2023, the minimum rating for new gas furnaces was set to 81 AFUE. From 2015 to 2022, the South and Southwest regions had a minimum rating of 80 AFUE, and the North required furnaces to be rated 90 AFUE or higher. Better AFUE ratings lessen energy consumption, lowers energy bills and reduces the environmental impact of heating your home.
When shopping for new furnaces, you may discover many models around 80 and 90 AFUE, but not much in between. This is because the technology required to exceed 80 AFUE causes a substantial jump in performance.
The 80 AFUE threshold has been the minimum requirement for gas furnaces in the U.S. since the 1990s. At this level, furnaces transform 80% of the fuel they consume into heat, with the remaining 20% lost to the atmosphere through the flue.
Gas furnaces must integrate more advanced technology to secure higher AFUE ratings, such as two-stage or modulating gas valves, variable-speed blowers and secondary heat exchangers. These technologies help the furnace extract heat from the fuel source more effectively, boosting efficiency from 80 to 90 AFUE or higher. Today’s best furnaces cap out at about 98.5 AFUE.
The cost of a furnace with a higher AFUE rating is usually higher than that of a lower AFUE-rated furnace. After all, more advanced technologies come with a higher price tag. The exact cost difference depends on the furnace make, size and efficiency rating.
When considering the purchase price of a more efficient furnace, remember the long-term energy savings that awaits you. The real chance to save money on energy bills for the next decade or longer helps you to recoup the extra up-front investment.
Although a higher AFUE rating results in more efficient home heating and lower energy bills, this doesn’t necessarily mean every homeowner should buy a 95 AFUE furnace. Here are the factors to think about when comparing costs and efficiency ratings:
If you’re looking for the best heating system for your needs and budget, turn to Midway Services. We can help you figure out the up-front costs and long-term benefits of different AFUE ratings to guide your decision. We’re so confident you’ll be satisfied with our services that we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! To find out more or to schedule a no-cost furnace installation estimate, please contact a Service Experts office near you.
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