If you’re looking for a new furnace this time of the year, chances are you’re pretty desperate to find one fast. But we want to discourage you from rushing into this type of purchase. Doing so can leave you with a system that is not properly matched to your specific home and needs. There are some other factors to consider too, like whether you want a gas furnace, or an electric one.
The question is, which is more efficient? Will one save you more on monthly energy costs than the other?
This is what we’re going to dive into below. The answers may be a little more complex than you think. First off, you have to consider what efficiency is. It’s the rating of heating output compared to the amount of energy the heating system actually consumed. So, a furnace with a higher efficiency rating will automatically cost you less to run from month to month, right? Well, not necessarily.
How Furnace Efficiency Is Rated
It’s first important for you to understand how furnaces are rated for efficiency. When you look at a furnace’s stats, you’ll notice an acronym: AFUE. This stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency and it’s the measurement for energy efficiency for furnaces.
The rating is listed as a percentage, and it identifies the amount of energy source that your furnace is able to convert directly into heat energy that enters your home, while the remaining energy goes to waste in the form of exhaust. A mid-efficiency gas furnace, then, with an 80% AFUE rating, burns 80% of its natural gas into heat while losing 20% of it through a flue as exhaust.
Understanding Standard Furnace Efficiency Ratings
The efficiency ratings for natural gas furnaces have increased significantly over the years. Originally, standard gas furnaces were rated about 70% AFUE. Furnaces around a decade old likely have an efficiency rating of about 80-85% AFUE. Today’s high-efficiency furnaces typically have scores in the 90s. In fact, modern condensing furnaces rate as high as 98% AFUE.
One thing to remember when considering both your current budget and long-term costs is that the higher the efficiency of a furnace is the more expensive it is to install. But, you will also want to consider the month-to-month costs of actually operating the furnace throughout the years.
So what about electric furnaces? What are their AFUE ratings? Well, all of them are 100% AFUE!
“I Should Just Get an Electric Furnace Then, Right?”
Not necessarily! We totally understand how you’d come to that conclusion. We just got done implying that the higher the efficiency, the less your furnace is going to cost you to run from month to month. But we were talking about natural gas furnaces.
Electric furnaces never waste any energy. This is because they do not burn fuel, so therefore they don’t have any energy to exhaust. All of its energy goes directly to heating your living space. But what you have to consider is the cost of the fuel source. Natural gas is simply more affordable than electricity.
So you could have an electric furnace with an AFUE rating of 100%, that is cheaper to install than a gas furnace, but be paying more from month-to-month on energy bills to run it than you would with a gas furnace with an 85% AFUE.
If after reading this you’re still a little unsure of what type of heating system to go with, please reach out to our team. We’re happy to help!