How are Furnaces Rated? A Comprehensive Guide


Rima Chatterjee

What is Furnace Rating?


Furnace rating is the measure of how much fuel a furnace can convert to heat energy. It’s measured in AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). A high AFUE means more energy is turned into heat, saving money on operating costs.

When buying a new furnace, consider its efficiency rating. Size, BTU input, fuel type, combustion system, air ducts, and other equipment all affect this rating. Efficient furnaces cost more upfront but save money over time. Plus, they help reduce environmental impact.

Good insulation and window maintenance are important too. Poor insulation can lead to heat escaping from your home, causing heating system issues.

To choose the right HVAC equipment, you need to estimate the amount of heating energy you need. This is based on climate zone and square footage. 

Knowing your furnace’s AFUE rating is like knowing your car’s gas mileage – you’ll save money without realizing it.

How are Furnaces Rated

AFUE rating

If you’re considering getting a new furnace, you want to make sure you’re investing in a product that will provide both comfort and energy savings. That’s where AFUE rating comes in as a helpful guide. In this section, we’ll discuss why AFUE rating is significant in your decision-making process when getting a furnace, and we’ll also go over how AFUE rating is calculated. These two sub-sections will provide you with the necessary information you need to make a smart and informed decision.

Why is AFUE rating important?

AFUE rating is key when picking a furnace or boiler. It shows how good the unit is at turning fuel into heat. A high AFUE rating means lower energy costs. Yet, look at the cost and decide if it is worth it. Think of climate and how you use it also.

Maintenance and cleaning can make your heating system more efficient. 

Calculating the AFUE rating is like using a fine-toothed comb to measure how efficient a furnace is – without the comb.

How is AFUE rating calculated?

AFUE rating is a must-know for heating equipment’s efficiency. It shows the proportion of fuel converted to heat.

To calculate AFUE, we need to work out the heat energy created from burning fuel. Then, divide this by the total energy used by the equipment over a certain period – including useful output and other losses. This gives us the system’s efficiency.

The table below lists components to take into account when calculating AFUE:

ComponentDescription
Combustion EfficiencyBoiler or furnace’s ability to burn fuel completely, without wasting any fuel.
Heat Exchanger EfficiencyMeasure of how well a heating unit transfers heat from one medium to another without wasting energy.
Flue LossesShows how much heat energy goes out along with waste gases during combustion. Poor ventilation leads to more flue losses.

Remember, if people don’t maintain their heating equipment, it will reduce efficiency and increase energy consumption.

In my hometown, power outages are a winter issue. Installing furnaces with an AFUE rating above 90% will keep homes warm and lower maintenance needs saving money on utilities in the long run. So, don’t criticize your furnace when it fails to meet your standards, it’s just trying to keep you cozy.

Factors Affecting Furnace Efficiency


To improve your furnace efficiency, you need to consider several factors. Many of these factors can be solved with the help of a technician or by making minor changes around your home. In this section, we will discuss the main factors that affect your furnace efficiency. These include your combustion system, ductwork, size of furnace, sealed combustion, and insulation and windows.

Combustion System

The combustion system is a major part of furnace efficiency. It can improve energy usage and lower fuel costs, reducing expenses and emissions.

Four main factors affect furnace efficiency. They are

FactorDescription
Air-Fuel RatioHow much air is needed for burning one unit of fuel. Wrong ratios waste fuel and create incomplete combustion.
Burner QualityHigh-quality burners create good flame characteristics like even heat, low NOx and high turndown.
Fuel TypeNatural gas is the most efficient, due to its high hydrogen content.
Control SystemAdvanced controls optimize burner performance based on temperature, humidity, etc.

Plus, other details like ventilation and filter maintenance matter too.

A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study shows that electric furnaces are good at heating, but use more energy than natural gas furnaces.

Why did the air duct retire? It was just too hot to handle!

Ductwork

The material choice affects furnace efficiency. 

  • Metal ducts are durable, but require regular maintenance. 
  • Flexible ducts are easy to install but can be easily damaged. 
  • Fiberglass ducts have good insulation, yet can quickly become dirty. Vinyl ducts are affordable, but may not last.

Location is also significant. Unconditioned spaces like attics or crawlspaces can lead to energy loss. Inside walls can look better, but repairs can be hard. Insulation type and thickness depend on climate and preference.

In ancient Rome, they had a heating system called hypocausts. Furnace rooms heated air which circulated through channels under floors and walls. Today’s systems have advanced, but the importance of good ductwork remains the same.

Size matters with furnaces. Landlords will know this if they try to fit a big one into a small apartment.

Size of Furnace

Size is key when it comes to furnace efficiency. Too small or too large, and you’ll have poor performance and bigger energy bills. Here’s what size affects:

FactorSmall FurnaceLarge Furnace
Cycling FrequencyHighLow
Airflow RateInadequateExcessive
Fuel EfficiencyHigher consumptionPoor efficiency

Bigger furnaces mean bigger ductwork. But bigger isn’t always better. Get help from an HVAC Pro to get the right size for energy efficiency and comfort. 

Oh and one last thing, we don’t seal combustion systems, Just kisses and envelopes!

Sealed Combustion

Sealed combustion refers to a type of furnace. It draws air from outside the home and vents flue gases directly outdoors. This is more efficient and safer than traditional furnaces. The latter draws air from inside and expels waste gas through a chimney.

Utilizing a sealed combustion system boosts furnace efficiency. It reduces energy waste and minimizes the risk of carbon monoxide leaks. Here’s a table about key factors affecting efficiency.

FactorDescription
Venting SystemDirect venting removes exhaust gases efficiently. Natural draft systems may lead to backdrafts or blockages.
Combustion Air SupplyA sealed chamber controls air supply, optimizing fuel utilization and saving energy.
Furnace SizeProperly sizing the furnace ensures maximum efficiency. An improperly sized unit consumes more energy and causes increased wear and tear.

Regular maintenance of sealed combustion furnaces further improves efficiency. Tasks like replacing filters, cleaning burners, and checking for leaks help maintain peak performance.

Incorporating a sealed combustion system and routinely maintaining it boosts furnace efficiency while lowering energy costs and promoting safety. Plus, insulation and windows keep your home cozy and your furnace from overworking.

Insulation and windows

To keep heat in, and not waste it, proper insulation is a must. Windows are a major source of heat gain or loss, so choosing the right material, size, and location is essential. 

  1. Double-paned or triple-paned windows are the best for insulation, as opposed to single-pane windows with drafts. 
  2. Vinyl and fiberglass are better insulators than traditional wood frames. 
  3. Weatherstripping around doors and windows can help too.

Although there is an initial investment in insulation and windows, it pays off in the long run, reducing energy usage and saving you money. Even centuries ago, the Greeks knew the importance of keeping warm air inside and insulated their homes with natural materials like straw, mud, and clay. As we progress technologically, our understanding of how to keep warm indoors has become more sophisticated.

Choosing a furnace is like finding the right mate. You want it to be efficient, and trustworthy, and never leave you out in the cold!

Choosing the Right Furnace


To choose the right furnace for your home, you have to consider several factors. With BTU rating, electric vs natural gas furnaces, single-stage vs two-stage heating, and heating system needs, you can make an informed decision that suits your preferences, budget, and climate. In the following subsections, we’ll explore each aspect and how it can affect your comfort, energy savings, and operating costs.

BTU Rating

BTU rating is key when selecting the perfect furnace. It indicates how much heat a furnace can generate. A higher BTU rating means more heat output, while a lower rating equals less heat.

Cold climates require a BTU rating of 40-45 per sq.ft., while moderate climates require 35-40 per sq. ft. For example, a 1500 sq. ft. house in a cold climate would need 60,000-67,500 BTUs per hour.

Insulation, ceiling height, and window quality must all be taken into account to determine accurate BTU requirements.

The US Department of Energy suggests looking for furnaces with Energy Star certifications. These models use less energy, yet give the same or better heating performance as non-Energy Star models.

Consumer Reports November 2021 review gave Rheem’s Classic Plus R96V High-Efficiency Gas Furnace an ‘Excellent’ rating with top marks for energy efficiency and heating performance.

When choosing between electric and gas furnaces, think Tesla vs. Humvee. Both will get you where you want to go, but one will cost much more.

Electric vs Natural Gas Furnace

Electric and natural gas furnaces are two popular choices for heating homes. Let’s compare the two and list some key differences.

Electric Furnace:

  • More costly upfront.
  • Lower operating costs in mild climates.
  • No need for a ventilation system or gas line.
  • Environmentally friendly.
  • Longer lifespan.

Natural Gas Furnace:

  • Cheaper initial investment.
  • Higher operating costs in colder areas.
  • Needs proper ventilation and gas line setup.
  • Produces CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
  • Must be replaced after 15-20 years.

Plus, electric furnaces usually have smaller repair bills. But, natural gas furnaces may be better in areas with frequent power outages.

Consider your climate and whether you have access to a gas line. Both options have pros and cons, so weigh them carefully before deciding.

Single-stage vs Two-stage Heating

When deciding on the best furnace for your home, it’s essential to consider the type of heating system. Do homeowners often face a dilemma: single-stage or two-stage? Here’s a comparison to help you:

Single-Stage Heating:

  • Just one level of heat output
  • It turns off & on to keep a set temperature
  • Less energy-efficient
  • Suitable for mild climates

Two-Stage Heating:

  • Two levels of heat output
  • Adjusts performance based on needs
  • More energy-efficient
  • Good for extremely cold areas

Where you live, lifestyle and budget are all important factors. If you live in a mild climate, single-stage may do the trick. But if you have harsh winters, two-stage can save you energy in the long run.
The choice is up to you – consult an HVAC pro for the best option for your home and life.

Heating System Needs

When selecting a furnace, it’s important to think about your heating system’s needs. The size and layout of your home, energy efficiency, and budget are all factors to consider.

The type of fuel your furnace uses is a key factor. Gas furnaces are efficient, and electric furnaces are great if you don’t have access to natural gas. Smart thermostats provide remote access and better temperature control.

Make sure to pick a furnace with the right capacity for your home. A small one won’t heat effectively, and an oversized one can waste energy and cost more.

Finding a balance between performance and cost is key. Research different options and get advice from a pro before making a decision.

Don’t make the mistake of buying a fancy furnace without considering your home’s needs research first.

Energy Savings and Cost


To help you save energy and money, let me tell you about the Energy Savings and Cost section of this article. Specifically, we will be discussing the sub-sections of Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, Operating Costs, and Purchase and Installation Costs. By understanding these areas, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about the right furnace for your home. So, let’s dive into the details.

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency

A table of AFUE ratings for heating systems can be used to show this. For instance, a high-efficiency gas furnace might have a 95% AFUE rating. This means 95% of the fuel is turned into heat, while 5% is wasted. But, a standard gas furnace may only have an 80% rating. Investing in more efficient heating with a higher rating can save a lot on energy bills.

It’s important to remember that older heating systems may have lower ratings due to wear and tear or outdated technology. Upgrading not only saves money but also reduces carbon emissions, making the planet greener.

Innovations in technology have caused AFUE ratings to continually rise. The earliest gas furnaces had a rating of only 56%, but by the 1980s many had passed 80%. Now, high-efficiency models have ratings above 98%, showing how innovation and sustainability work together to save energy and costs.

Operating Costs

Optimizing and reducing operating costs is important for businesses. Install LED lights and automatic light sensors to turn off appliances when not in use. Upgrade equipment for more energy efficiency. Implement an energy management system for insight into energy usage. Set targets and track progress for savings.

In today’s competitive business landscape, reducing operating costs is a must. Failure to do so can lead to decreased profitability and reduced competitiveness. Implement energy-saving strategies and an energy management system. This will reduce your carbon footprint and give financial benefits.

Investing in energy-saving measures is better than paying for therapy sessions when you see your electricity bill.

Purchase and Installation Costs

Let’s delve into the cost implications of energy savings. Main expenses include purchase and installation costs. Here are the average costs for key factors:

  • Energy Efficient Appliances ($500 – $2,000+)
  • LED Lighting ($5 – $50+)
  • Solar Panels (Residential) ($10,000 – $40,000+)

Also, consider the type of property and its current energy efficiency level. Outdated properties require a higher initial investment for energy efficiency. Professional installation may be required too.

Look for rebate programs and tax incentives for financial assistance with energy-saving upgrades and installations. Maintenance is a must for good energy efficiency.

Maintenance and Safety


To ensure the safe and efficient operation of your furnace, regular maintenance is crucial. In this section, we will discuss the importance of regular maintenance, as well as hiring a qualified technician who can diagnose and fix any potential issues. Additionally, we’ll cover safety precautions that homeowners should take when operating their furnaces, as well as what to do in case of emergencies.

Regular Maintenance

To ensure the longevity and safety of any equipment, regular maintenance is vital. It involves a series of tasks to keep the equipment working optimally. These include:

  • Conducting regular inspections.
  • Testing all relevant parts.
  • Lubricating moving parts.
  • Cleaning the equipment.
  • Replacing worn-out or damaged parts.
  • Maintaining records of tasks.

Benefits include detecting issues early, reducing downtime, increasing efficiency, and money saving. Make sure to consult the manufacturer’s manual for the right tools, parts, and techniques. 

Hire a qualified technician for maintenance, unless you want your repair failure to be on YouTube!

Hiring a qualified technician

When it comes to keeping things safe, hiring a qualified technician is essential. Do your research and select someone with relevant experience and certifications. They must know the functionality of machinery to carry out inspections and testing. They should be able to detect potential dangers, suggest solutions, and make needed changes. Hiring well-trained professionals guarantees that all work is up to industry standards and that safety is a priority.

Choose right and save time and money. Regular maintenance avoids breakdowns, reduces downtime for repairs, and increases the lifespan of your equipment. Don’t risk safety. Get the job done right the first time. 

Safety is paramount, it’s not worth taking risks!

Safety Precautions

Safety is key when doing maintenance. Here are five essential precautions to take:

  • Wear PPE like gloves and goggles before starting.
  • Disconnect and turn off all equipment.
  • Keep the work environment well-lit, clean, and organized.
  • Do NOT do any task if under the influence of alcohol/drugs.
  • Seek help from a supervisor/colleague if unsure/unsafe.

Staying safe while doing maintenance is vital. Adhere to procedures and guidelines.

Safety measures can prevent injuries, save costs, and boost productivity. OSHA states that employers who prioritize safety enjoy reduced injury rates, insurance costs, and workers’ compensation claims. 

Always prioritize safety, maintenance is cheaper than a hospital bill!

Conclusion


Efficient furnaces? Yes, please! AFUE rating, BTU input/output, combustion system, sealing, and size requirements should be taken into account when buying a furnace. Consider your preferences and needs, while keeping costs in mind. HVAC experts can estimate operating costs based on yearly fuel use and heat removal needs. Plus, technicians inspect homes for insulation and windows that may hinder furnace efficiency. To ensure the longevity and safety of any equipment, regular maintenance is vital. Safety measures can prevent injuries, save costs, and boost productivity In conclusion, make an informed decision after considering all factors for optimum home comfort and energy efficiency.

About the author

Debarghya Roy: A heating systems author, Passionate about energy efficiency and sustainability, Sharing insights and empowering readers through informative blog articles.