DOE HVAC Efficiency Standards: Are They Going Up Soon?

HVAC Efficiency StandardsOver the last few years, the Department of Energy (DOE) worked with representatives of the HVAC industry to raise HVAC efficiency standards. The new standards were to go into effect in 2013, but the implementation was delayed as a result of industry concern that the ratings for the northern region were too strict and inflexible for existing homes that needed new furnaces or boilers. 

The new standard would have required furnaces to have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) minimum of 90, which is all but impossible to achieve without using a condensing furnace or boiler. The current minimum AFUE stands at 78, which means that the unit wastes 22 percent of the fuel it uses. A system with a 90 AFUE only wastes 10 percent of the fuel it uses, and in northern parts of the U.S., raising the bar to this level would save a tremendous amount of natural gas or propane.

What Is a Condensing Furnace?

A condensing furnace has two heat exchangers, unlike less efficient systems that have only one. The condensing systems extract the heat from the water vapor burned gas creates. What remains after the extraction takes place is condensed water vapor, which drains away into the plumbing. While a condensing system raises HVAC efficiency standards a good deal, they’re more expensive to install in existing homes and may be impossible in some situations.

Retrofitting a condensing furnace into an existing detached or attached home could drive its cost up excessively. These systems require direct ventilation, normally through an exterior wall, for airflow into the combustion chamber and an adjacent exhaust system to remove combustion gases.

It would be expensive to deal with these issues physically in some single-family homes and may even be impossible in high density attached homes that don’t have an adequate exterior wall for venting. The lawsuit is currently working its way through the courts, so the current efficiency standards still stand at 78 AFUE.

To learn more about the pending HVAC efficiency standards for the Cincinnati area, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing. We’ve provided outstanding HVAC services to area homeowners since 1910.

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