What Is AFUE Rating and What Does It Mean for Homeowners?

Wondering what AFUE rating has to do with buying a new heater? You’re not the only one! Many people who haven’t bought a new heating system before have no idea what this rating means or how to use it. Although frustrating at times, ratings and standards play an important role in protecting consumers and the environment. In the absence of objective ratings, it can be hard for consumers to make an informed purchase.   Heating systems are a big investment, and homeowners deserve to know what they’re getting for their money. An AFUE rating describes how energy efficient a furnace or boiler is, which has many financial and non-financial implications. If you need a new heating system but aren’t sure where to start, don’t stress — the HVAC professionals at Strittmatter Plumbing, Heating and AC can help you decide. Keep reading to learn why AFUE rating is important and how to choose an energy-efficient heating system.    Not sure whether to buy a heat pump, furnace or boiler? That’s not a problem. The Highland heating and air experts at Strittmatter can break down the differences for you. Reach out to us online or give us a call at (972) 362-4135. 

What Is an AFUE Rating? 

Annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) is a rating that measures a furnace or boiler’s efficiency, or how much usable heat is generated by a particular heating system. AFUE rating is represented by a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the more efficient the system. For example, if a furnace or boiler has an AFUE rating of 95%, that means that 95% of the fuel used by that system will go to heating the home. The other five percent is wasted in the heating process.    The AFUE rating system was designed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requires all furnaces to have a minimum AFUE rating of 78%, though there are proposals to increase the minimum AFUE rating to 92%.

Why Is AFUE Important? 

Understanding how much fuel certain appliances use is a critical step in choosing more energy-efficient systems. AFUE is important for several reasons, including its ability to predict utility costs and measure energy consumption. 

Utility Costs

When homeowners buy a new furnace or boiler, they deserve to know how efficient the system will be. Without a rating system, consumers might accidentally buy a system that’s extremely inefficient and increases their utility bills. Although heating systems with high AFUE ratings may require a larger upfront investment than systems with low AFUE ratings, they can save homeowners a lot of money on utility bills.  

Energy Consumption

Many homeowners are concerned about their carbon footprint, and AFUE ratings help them pick heating systems that waste less energy. The government also has a stake in ensuring manufacturers consider the energy consumption of their product, as the vast majority of furnaces are powered by non-renewable energy. 

Benefits of High-Efficiency Heating Systems

Although saving money on utility bills and conserving energy are arguably the biggest benefits of a high-efficiency heating system, those aren’t the only benefits. Here are some additional perks to buying a highly efficient heating system:   
  • Longer-lasting furnace. Highly efficient systems generally have on-and-off cycling programs that help them both conserve energy and limit wear and tear. 
  • Less maintenance. New, high-efficiency systems won’t require the same amount of repairs and maintenance that a struggling, inefficient system will. 
  • Better heat distribution. Highly efficient heating systems that use newer HVAC technology will heat your rooms more evenly than an antiquated system. 
  • Increased home value. Thinking of selling your home in the next couple years? A high-efficiency heating system will add value to your home when you’re ready to sell, saving you money on utilities in the meantime. 
  Ready to buy an energy-efficient heating system with a high AFUE rating? Consult with a trusted HVAC professional about heater installation in Highland Village.

Energy-Efficient Heating Systems

There are many different types of heating systems, ranging from extremely basic to advanced. As you may have guessed, not all types of heating systems are energy efficient. Electric heating systems, which power 34% of U.S. homes, are some of the least cost-efficient options. These included forced-air furnaces, baseboard heaters and radiant cable heating. Conversely, gas furnaces have the ability to be extremely efficient. If you’re in the market for an energy-efficient heating system, consider an electric heat pump, gas furnace or boiler. 

Electric Heat Pump 

Unlike gas furnaces and boilers, the efficiency of heat pumps is not measured with the AFUE rating. Instead, heat pumps are evaluated with a heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) rating, which measures a heat pump’s ability to extract heat from the outdoor air. Heat pumps are also evaluated with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating. As with AFUE ratings, the higher an HSPF or SEER rating, the better.    Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air, and they can function as both heaters and air conditioners. In the summer, they remove heat from indoor air and deposit it outside; in the winter, they remove heat from outdoor air and deposit it inside. Heat pumps don’t require a lot of electricity to operate and generally heat a home in a short amount of time. However, they lose efficiency in extreme winter temperatures. 

Gas Furnace 

Some gas furnaces are extremely efficient and can reach AFUE ratings above 97%. ENERGY STAR, a program run by DOE, has compiled a list of the 25 most efficient gas furnaces of 2021. Although these furnaces require larger upfront investments, they end up saving homeowners a ton of money in utility costs. New gas furnaces achieve high levels of efficiency through smart design features like sealed combustion chambers, secondary heat exchangers, direct spark ignition and improved filtration systems. 

Heat Boilers 

Boiler heating systems use gas, propane or oil to heat a reserve of water. After the water is heated, the boiler sends hot water through pipes under the floor, through convection units or radiator units. Heat transfers up through the floor and eventually into the air, heating the home. High-efficiency boilers can heat a home with a modest consumption of fuel. 

Highland Village HVAC Company

A new heating system is a big investment, and it’s important for homeowners to understand what they’re buying. That’s why rating systems like AFUE are so important. If you’re struggling to pick out the right heating system for you, rest assured that a Highland heating and air specialist from Strittmatter Plumbing, Heating and AC can help. Whether you’re interested in a heat pump, furnace, boiler or something else, we’ll go over your options with you. Ready to get started? Reach out to us online or give us a call at (972) 362-4135. 

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