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

Since 2009 the U. S. Department of Energy was worked on improving efficiency standards for American HVAC equipment. DOE has worked with a cohort of HVAC and utility industry experts in order to update the efficiency ratings and standards on HVAC systems. Their recommended increased efficiency ratings were scheduled to go into place in 2013. They did not, however, because a court order has delayed their implementation. It has been argued that retrofitting homes for the increased standards would cause financial harm to some homeowners.

HVAC Efficiency Standards

During the 2009 standards work, DOE segmented the country into sections based on local climates. For the northern states, including New York, the minimum annual fuel efficiency (AFUE) was raised from the current 78 to 90. The only type of furnaces with a 90 rating are condensing furnaces. While they do improve HVAC efficiency, they present a challenge to retro fit in homes because they require a different venting system. Attached homes especially have limited access to an exterior wall for the venting system and therefore the retrofit becomes very expensive for these homeowners.

While the case is working its way through the court system, the AFUE is still 78. Homeowners who find they must replace their old HVAC systems are strongly advised to go ahead and purchase the higher 90 AFUE system, including a condensing furnace, to be prepared when the new standards do take effect. A condensing furnace has two heat exchanges instead of the standard one that most furnaces have. The second heat exchange works by extracting water vapor from the steam that burning gas produces and used that to warm the home instead of releasing it up the chimney. Later the vapor condenses into water again and drains out through the house’s plumbing system.

In order to prepare your home for the upgraded efficiency rating, call your local HVAC contractor to schedule an inspection of your system. Have them prepare some suggestions for how to increase your system’s efficiency. If your old system is approaching the age of potential replacement, go ahead and have your HVAC supplier prepare and estimate for what a new and energy efficient 90 AFUE furnace will cost and begin saving for the installation of your new unit.

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