DOE HVAC Efficiency Standards: Are They Going Up Soon?

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Over 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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"Ernie & Mike did a superb job on my new furnace and A/C installation. Despite having more than a day’s work to do, they came in and stayed until the job was done. They were organized, efficient, and protected the rest of the house well. Got both furnace and A/C installed the same day. Ernie was courteous, informative, and clearly knew his job better than anyone I’ve encountered before. The units look so good guests now get The Tour of our new system. Apollo is clearly not a fly-by-night company. I would recommend them to anyone in need of a new furnace and/or A/C."
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- Randy B.
"We scheduled an estimate AND a tune-up. We knew something was wrong with our furnace, but hoped we could make it through the rest of the season. Upon telling Bill what our furnace was doing, he warned us immediately what the possible outcome was going to be; a cracked heat exchanger. He watched the flames roll backward, tested carbon monoxide levels, which were so high they meter’s last reading was 5,600 before saying “high”. He immediately shut it down, tagged it, and explained that with levels that high and children in our home he wanted off right away. He continued his inspection and showed us via a camera that not only was it cracked in multiple places, but had holes all over it. He gave us a few options for repairing it; his knowledge as well as genuine concern was beneficial and refreshing. Luckily we also scheduled an estimator, Micah, to come too and we were able to get costs between repairing and replacing (with several options). We decided to replace with a much higher efficiency furnace and one sized properly to our home. Hands down, not only did they both provide us great service and knowledge, but without sounding dramatic, they may have saved our lives. This was our first time calling Apollo, but it won’t be our last."
- Sarah B.
"Apollo is an excellent company. I always receive great service. Alex A. was professional and friendly. He kept me informed during the process of checking my furnace and heat pump to make sure they were working properly. The company makes sure you are notified who is coming and when they are on the way. All my interactions with the company have been wonderful."
- Beverly S.



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