Last summer I learned about the new U.S. Department of Energy standards for high efficiency furnaces that would be implemented in May 2013. At the time, it seemed like forever ago but now I look at my calendar and May is slowly but surely creeping up on us. However, these new standards are not. According to ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America), the Department of Energy will not be enforcing these regulations:
In a statement released earlier this month, the Department of Energy announced that it will NOT enforce the rules requiring residential natural gas furnaces installed in 30 northern states to be at least 90% AFUE starting on May 1, 2013, pending the outcome of the lawsuit challenging those rules. (Charlie McCrudden, "Breaking News: DOE Will Not Enforce May 1 Furnace Rule).
The regulations originally required that in certain northern states, including Nebraska and Iowa, all furnaces installed after May 1, 2013 would have to have at least a 90% AFUE or above. AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. A 90% rating means that 90% of the energy being used to heat your home is actually being used for its intended purpose and isn't being wasted. For the most part this seems pretty practical, right? A higher efficiency furnace means less wasted energy and less wasted money.
The problem was that these higher efficiency furnaces typically cost more money. The unit itself generally costs more and the labor for the install might rack up the price as well. This is because these high efficiency furnaces do not vent steam at temperatures nearly as hot as lower efficiency furnaces (think 700 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 150 degrees Fahrenheit). If you have a lower efficiency furnace the hot steam is probably vented through the chimney, perhaps with the use of a chimney liner. The cooler steam of the 90% furnaces and above do not need all that space to vent, instead they just use a simple PVC pipe coming out from the side of your home. Changing this ventilation system could be costly though. Despite the extra start up costs, high efficiency furnaces are truly much better for the environment and your wallet. In the long run they will generate tremendous savings. Therefore, even though you do not have to purchase a 90% AFUE furnace now, it still is a good idea to consider.