Heating systems vary in energy efficiency, which impacts home energy costs. Inefficient heaters can drive up your utility bill. Here is how you can tell if your heating system is energy efficient.
Energy Efficiency and AFUE Ratings
One of the best ways to determine if your heater is energy efficient is to check its annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. AFUE ratings use percentages to reflect how well your heating system converts fuel into energy. Current furnaces and boilers have a minimum 80% AFUE rating, reflecting that 80 cents out of every dollar spent on energy is put to effective use while 20 cents is lost. As an overall measure, the higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient your heating system is.
High-efficiency heaters are between 90% and 98.5% efficient, with the highest AFUE models losing only 1.5% of energy. In comparison, older furnaces may only have an AFUE rating of 56%, meaning that 44 cents of every dollar spent is wasted. AFUE ratings thus relate to both energy efficiency and cost savings. The higher the AFUE rating, the lower your heating bill will be.
You can find the AFUE rating for your heating system on the label provided on furnaces and boilers. These ratings are also printed in the user manuals. You can also search the make and model of your unit on the Internet to determine its rating. AFUE ratings help you determine if your heating system is energy efficient, but there are other ways too.
Energy Efficiency and HSPF Ratings
If you use a heat pump, the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) indicates its energy efficiency. Similar to AFUE ratings, a higher HSPF means your heater is more efficient and provides lower heating costs.
HSPF ratings measure the average efficiency of your heat pump over the course of a season. The HSPF is determined by dividing the total heating output for a season, BTUs (British thermal units)/hour, by the total energy used during that period, Watt/hour. The federal government requires that all new heat pumps have a minimum 8.2 HSPF rating out of a top rating of 13.5.
An 8.2 HSPF is also the required minimum to be certified as an ENERGY STAR heating system. An ENERGY STAR rating is a measure of energy efficiency set by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy and provides another way to determine if your heater is energy efficient.
The HSPF and ENERGY STAR ratings are usually clearly displayed on heat pumps and in owner manuals. Since they can operate as air conditioners, heat pumps also have seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) ratings that measure the amount of electricity being consumed during a certain time period. You can also see these ratings on heat pumps. Northern states are required to have at least a 13 SEER rating to be considered energy efficient.
You can look for HSPF, ENERGY STAR, and SEER ratings to find out if your system is energy efficient.
Other Ways to Determine Energy Efficiency
Checking the exhaust pipe of your heating system is a quick way to find out if your heater is energy efficient. If the pipe is metal, your heater is a standard, low-efficiency furnace. If you have a plastic PVC pipe, then you have a high-efficiency system.
You can also check how old your heating system is. For example, furnaces have a lifespan of 15 to 30 years, but they usually lose about 5% of their efficiency each year. If your furnace is getting older, it probably has lost a significant amount of energy efficiency compared with newer models.
In addition, you can evaluate your energy bill. If you see a major increase in your bill compared with the previous year, that could mean your system has lost efficiency. Colder winters may explain the increase, but for comparable seasons or years, increased higher energy costs usually mean your heater is not as energy efficient as it used to be.
As furnaces get older, energy bills can go up. Replacing it with an energy-efficient heating system updates the efficiency of your system and provides substantial savings.
Reliable Heating and Cooling Services
Please contact us at WK Mechanical, Inc. for more information about heating repairs, installation, and maintenance. We provide residential and commercial heating and cooling services in Middletown, NY.