“Efficiency” is a broad term used to describe how easily units like furnaces and heat pumps can increase temperatures compared to the energy they use. This is an important consideration for any building because higher efficiency is the best way to guarantee both faster heating and more money saved on energy bills.
If you have a low-efficiency heating system, you could realize significant long-term savings by upgrading to an energy-efficient model. But how do you know how efficient your heating system is? For current HVAC units, there are three ways every owner can judge their current system.
Watching Your Energy Bills Over Time
The less efficient a heating unit, the harder it has to work to create heat and the more energy it will take up. Of course, energy bills will naturally shift from month to month based on how much heat you are using, but it’s important to keep an eye on overall trends. Watch for growing spikes in your electric bill, for example – this can indicate a problem with your current HVAC unit.
You may also want to compare your current energy bills to past bills you have paid or the costs of heating a similar space to see if you’re paying more than you should be. If you use a direct fuel for your furnace, like propane or natural gas, watch the associated fees and usage to look for problematic trends.
Know Your AFUE
Your furnace should have an efficiency number called the AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. In many cases, it’s shown along with product model information printed directly on the furnace. This number is very easy to read, as it’s simply a percentage that shows how heat energy is successfully used to heat a building.
For example, a furnace with a 70% AFUE will pass 70% of the heat it creates into the home. The other 30% is represented by lost radiant heat, used-up fuel during ignition, and so on. Today’s new furnaces are extremely efficient, often up to the mid-90s. If your furnace’s AFUE is 10 to 15% below that, you can save a lot by switching to a new model.
If you use a heat pump, you can make a similar comparison with SEER numbers, which are a bit more nebulous but still informative.
Consider the Age of Your Unit
Even a high-efficiency heating unit wears down with age. As components age, more ways develop for heat to escape, and the furnace will not be able to create heat as quickly. Fuel residues can also build up and affect performance.
Regular furnace maintenance can keep serious issues from developing and maintain efficiency. But overall, wear and tear will still take its toll. If your furnace is 15 to 20 years old, it’s probably reaching the end of its expected life. This also means enough time has passed for marked improvements in overall furnace technology, so it’s a good time to think about buying!
If you have questions about your specific furnace model or would like to compare costs for energy-efficient installation, contact Action Heating & Air Inc. today!