What are the most energy-efficient furnaces available today?

These days, it feels like the price of just about everything is going up. That includes electricity and gas. It’s why there’s no better time than now to upgrade to a more energy-efficient furnace in time for winter. In this article, we’ll review how furnace efficiency is measured, how to compare furnace efficiency, and what manufacturer is creating some of the most-efficient furnaces on the market today.

How is furnace efficiency measured?

Much like Seasonal Energy-Efficiency Ratio (SEER) can be used to compare the relative energy-efficiency of air conditioners, furnaces can be graded by their AFUE—Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency—rate. In short, AFUE measures how much of the furnace’s fuel source (natural gas, electricity) is successfully converted into heat energy, with the remainder being wasted. A 80% AFUE furnace, for instance, successfully converts 80% of its fuel into heat energy. The higher the percentage, the less energy that the system uses.

Most new furnaces today come in above that 80% figure. The world’s most-efficient furnaces, however, climb even higher, reaching AFUE rates of 96-98%. While a 100% AFUE is probably impossible, today’s furnaces are able to get pretty close to utilizing nearly every bit of gas or electricity.

Comparing furnaces based on efficiency

AFUE is a useful, easy-to-understand tool for comparing furnaces against one another. Even without knowing the specifics of the systems, you can tell that a 95% AFUE furnace is more efficient than a 90% AFUE furnace, and that purchasing the former will help save you money on your monthly energy bills.

There is a catch, however. AFUE is great for comparing furnaces, so long as you’re comparing furnaces of the same energy source—gas or electricity. Making cross-system comparisons gets trickier if you’re trying to shop for both types of systems. Electric furnaces naturally have a higher AFUE—due to physics, electricity more readily converts to heat energy than gas, which must be combusted to release heat. It’s just one of the most significant differences between gas and electric furnaces.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that electric furnaces are cheaper to run. In most parts of the U.S., natural gas remains cheaper than electricity. So, even if an electric furnace is more efficient at generating heat, you might still end up paying more for that heating every month. Of course, if your home doesn’t have a natural gas connection, that’s just part of having an electric system.

Related: What is the best furnace for your home?

Buying a furnace isn’t the end of the story

Let’s acknowledge something: buying an energy-efficient furnace is the single-best thing you can do to cut down on your utility bills. It’s addressing the problem at its source and ensuring that your furnace isn’t wasting your money. However, it’s far from the only thing you can do as a homeowner to cut down on your energy bills. No matter how efficient your new furnace is, you should still consider taking steps to make your home more efficient. A poorly insulated home, after all, isn’t going to do your furnace—or your bills—any favors.

To boost your gas or electric furnace efficiency, make some simple upgrades to your home. If you don’t already have one, consider pairing your new furnace with a smart thermostat. This upgrade can help you schedule when you want the furnace to run, helping to save money on heating when no one’s home. Many smart thermostats retail for under $100, making them a great value for your home.

Next, have an expert out to measure your attic insulation. If your home doesn’t have sufficient insulation, you’re going to be losing heat through the ceiling every single day your new, efficient furnace is running. Even with our relatively mild winters in Albuquerque, your home needs enough insulation to help trap heat energy inside during the winter—and keep it outside during the summer.

Finally, talk to an expert about your windows and doors. If you’re noticing drafts coming in from around your door or window frames, it might be time to either replace them or—at the very least—strategically apply weather-stripping to prevent heating and cooling loss. If your home has single-pane windows that are getting up there in age, it might be time to consider replacing them with more efficient double- or even triple-pane ones.

The more efficient your home, the less your furnace has to run and the less energy it uses. Electric and gas furnace efficiency is just the start—there’s a whole world of upgrades you can make to your home to start saving money!

Watch: Tips on making your HVAC system more energy-efficient

Check out this video from Designing Spaces to learn more about how you can maximize your HVAC system’s energy-efficiency.

Get a free in-home estimate on an energy-efficient furnace

Need a new furnace before our nights start getting colder? Call your friends at Wagner for a free in-home estimate on a new furnace. We’re proud to install some of the most energy-efficient furnaces available today. As part of our estimate, we’ll come out to your home to talk to you about your options and find the perfect system for you and your family.