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Raising of HVAC Efficiency Standards Still Undecided

A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and a consortium of HVAC and energy experts joined forces to make recommendations to raise HVAC efficiency standards. The group focused on raising heating standards in order to reduce the consumption of natural gas, propane and fuel oil.

The standards the DOE approved specified that furnaces installed in the northern states after May 2013 had to have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of 90 or higher. The prior minimum standard stood at 78 AFUE, which means that the furnace or boiler uses 78 percent of each unit of fuel it uses for home heating, while it wastes 22 percent, mostly as combustion gases.

Furnaces with an AFUE of 90 or more are almost always combustion furnaces whose design and installation are significantly different from lower AFUE furnaces.

Other experts in the HVAC industry sounded an alarm about the financial implications for existing homeowners whose homes would be difficult to retrofit with such a system. The opponents filed a lawsuit that was accepted and is currently making its way through the court system.

As a consequence, all the other changes to the HVAC efficiency standards were put on hold, including those affecting Virginia, which are much less severe than those for the northern states with regard to heating systems. The AFUE increase for the southern states with which Virginia is classified, would go from 78 AFUE to 80 AFUE.

Although Virginia homeowners won’t be faced with complex replacement issues when choosing a new heating system, sticking to the current standard of 78 AFUE could be a short-sighted choice. We’re far enough north to require consistent heating throughout the winter, making a more efficient furnace a better choice for comfort and lower ongoing energy bills. A solid choice for our region would be a two-stage furnace that adjusts the fuel used based on home heating demands.

To learn more about the HVAC efficiency standards and your next furnace, contact HVAC & Plumbing Unlimited Heating & Cooling. We proudly provide HVAC services to homeowners in and around Lorton, Fairfax and Clifton.

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