As Nebraska and Iowa start showing off vibrant fall foliage and pumpkins show up on doorways, heating costs are rising. Luckily, better energy efficiency for your heating system isn’t far behind. New equipment can offer the same reliable heat while lowering your energy use.

On June 13, 2022, the Department of Energy (DOE) proposed a new furnace efficiency standards bill in an effort to crack down on pollution and lower heating costs for consumers. Let’s dive into where this bill is coming from, when the updated standards kick in and what this means for furnaces in Nebraska.

A Brief History of Furnace Efficiency

While Americans enjoyed cozy home heating long before the 1980s, those oil crisis years affected traditional fossil fuel heating methods. The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 established that new furnaces must be at least 78% efficient to stave off pollution and inefficient energy use.

Since then, there have been numerous attempts to change the minimum efficiency of furnaces, but many of them were shut down or amended. In 2007, the DOE raised the minimum efficiency of new furnaces from 78% to 80% under the Energy Independence and Security Act.

What’s the Current Industry Standard for Defining Furnace Efficiency?

Unlike other HVAC products that use the ENERGY STAR® Rating System, furnaces are judged by their Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating (AFUE). The standard furnace is expected to be rated 80 AFUE, which means that 80% of the heat it emits goes into the home and 20% escapes through the vent, chimney or otherwise.

What Is the Minimum Efficiency for a New Furnace?

This bill would require that all residential natural gas furnaces in Nebraska and Iowa offer a minimum efficiency of 95 AFUE. It is meant to significantly reduce carbon and methane emissions over the next 30 years and is projected to save consumers $1.9 billion annually.

On a smaller scale, this improved energy efficiency should save the average home around $60 each year on utility bills.

Since it will take time for the furnace industry and homeowners to adjust accordingly, 2029 is the earliest these new energy standards would take effect in Nebraska or Iowa and change furnace installation requirements.

What Is a Good Furnace Efficiency Rating?

These days, a furnace rated 90 AFUE or above is considered good. For perspective, the typical all-electric furnace has an AFUE rating between 95 and 98.5. Meanwhile, the oldest furnaces are still suffering efficiencies as low as 56%!

How Can You Check Your Furnace’s Efficiency?

Manufacturers are required to mark furnaces with their AFUE ratings. You can check your furnace rating by looking for a bright yellow label. In some cases, the label may be damaged or missing, but you can still look up the model number or contact our technicians for assistance to determine what efficiency your furnace runs at.

Is a Higher Efficiency Furnace Worth It?

In general, a higher efficiency furnace is worth the more expensive upfront cost.

Furnaces with better energy efficiency save you more money in the long run. Newer models provide more usable heat. The healthier indoor air quality and quieter operation also make for a great boon for those who don’t want to be bothered by dust and noise.

95 AFUE and above furnaces are more environmentally friendly than other heating options. They save on natural gas fuel expenses and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, you can upgrade your new furnace model with smart technology so that you can enjoy more comfort and convenience.

Not all change is easy, though. Furnace replacement can prove challenging in situations where it isn’t feasible to retrofit 95 AFUE heating systems. Professional furnace technicians can help you figure out your heating plan.

Does This Bill Force Furnace Replacement?

Short answer is: No. It would simply restrict the types of heating that are available to the consumer. New furnaces installed must meet the 95 AFUE rating, but this doesn’t mean old furnaces will be stripped away from their home.

However, it is important to know that the older the furnace, the more potential problems it could bring you. Older furnaces with low AFUE ratings can be expensive, get easily clogged and need repairs, or break down in the dead of winter. And we all know that Nebraska and Iowa winters are hardly welcoming.

Is the New Furnace Efficiency Bill Going to Pass?

Many factors go into the finalization of a bill. This furnace efficiency bill is only one proposal out of Biden’s 100 energy-efficient actions that the administration plans to complete this year. Time will tell if furnace efficiency standards will be raised to 95 AFUE or another number. As furnaces modernize and less efficient models are phased out, it’s time to consider installing a new furnace.

Want a wallet-friendly and future-proof furnace? We’ve got you covered with affordable furnace installation in Omaha, NE, that meets the upcoming efficiency standards. Call us today for a free estimate!