Do I Need a High Efficiency Furnace?

In these days of high energy costs, environmental concerns and tight budgets many homeowners are asking the same question, “Do I need a high efficiency furnace?”  That’s a great question for anyone to ask, and the answer must be tailored to your situation.  If you aren’t familiar with what makes a furnace high efficiency, it is having an annualized fuel use efficiency (AFUE) rating of at least 90%, meaning that 90% of the energy the furnace burns goes to heat the heat while only 10% is lost out the flue as exhaust. The most efficient furnaces on the market are over 97% efficient, while standard efficiency furnaces are 80% efficient, the minimum AFUE required by the Department of Energy.

Here are the factors to consider when asking, “Do I need a high efficiency furnace?”

1. The Extra Cost

High efficiency furnaces cost 35% to 75% more than standard efficiency gas furnaces, and depending on the size of the furnace and the additional features it has, that may amount to $400 to $1000.  As you shop for gas furnaces it will be easy to compare standard efficiency and high efficiency models within the same product line.

2. The Payback Period

The payback period is the time it will take to recoup of the cost of paying the extra money for a high efficiency gas furnace versus the standard efficiency gas furnace.  For example, if the high efficiency models costs $800 more but saves you $40 per month on your heating costs, the payback period is 20 heating months, roughly 3-7 years depending on your climate.  A 90% efficient furnace will use 10% less energy than an 80% efficient furnace, and so on.

Review your energy bills from the last few winters.  Do some basic math to figure out how much you will save on energy if you buy an 80% AFUE furnace versus the efficiency level of the model you have in mind.    In very warm climates, where gas furnaces are used only occasionally, the payback period may be as long as 10 years or more.

3. Factor in How Long You Intend to Own the Home

If you plan to stay in the home well beyond the payback period, the high efficiency gas furnace will be a better choice, especially in these days of very volatile energy costs.  If you plan to sell prior to recouping your extra expense for a high efficiency gas furnace, the purchase won’t make sense from the standpoint of your utility bills.  However, as a feature that may make your home more attractive to potential buyers, or if you simply think installing a high efficiency gas furnace is the right thing to do to help your fellow man, i.e., the next owner of your home, then go with the high efficiency furnace.

4. Your Approach to Being Green

If your single greatest priority is to use less energy and create fewer greenhouse gas / carbon emissions, then for you the answer to our question is an easy one.  The high efficiency furnace is clearly the better choice.

The 4 factors make the decision an uncomplicated one.  While you can draw your own conclusions, our conclusion is that for most homeowners, a high efficiency gas furnace is a better choice.

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