Most homes in the U.S. are either heated with boilers or furnaces. Although they perform essentially the same function, they utilize different methods to distribute heat throughout your home.

Furnaces use air, while boilers use water.  When determining which appliance is the most efficient, refer to the equipment’s AFUE rating, which reflects its efficiency.

The annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE, rating measures the heat generated by the appliance versus the amount of fossil fuel that’s used to generate that heat, and all over the span of an average year. This means an appliance that has an AFUE rating of 93 uses 93 percent of the fuel for heat, while 7 percent is wasted. Unfortunately, this efficiency rating doesn’t take into account the amount of energy that can be lost due to faulty piping or ductwork, which can be as high as 35 percent.

Appliances with a high AFUE rating can cut utility bills dramatically. In days past, the highest efficiency heaters and furnaces were approximately 70 percent efficient. Nowadays, though, some appliances have ratings as high as 98.5 percent. To make it easier for consumers to determine the efficiency of their new heating units, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ordered that all new models must have their AFUE rating displayed.

If you own an old heater or furnace that is still in good working condition, you may be able to get it retrofitted in order to improve its efficiency. However, if you’re planning this as a short-term solution, it’s a better investment to bite the bullet and purchase the newer model now, particularly with federal tax credits available through the end of 2013. Additionally, opt for equipment with the Energy Star label to ensure efficiency.

Before you make any purchasing or retrofitting decisions, perform renovations to your home to improve its energy efficiency. Once completed, hire an HVAC professional to properly size your furnace replacement. The sizing information will go a long way in determining the smallest and most efficient unit for your home.

For more information about AFUE ratings and other HVAC concerns, contact the pros at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing. We’re proud to serve homeowners throughout the greater Cincinnati area.

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