Last Chance to Buy an 80% Furnace! (and save)

With the Federal government enforcing new energy efficiency standards as of May 1st, 2013, this will be the last winter that consumers can buy a down and dirty 80% AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency)gas furnace.  As of May 1st, northern contractors can only sell and homeowners will be forced to buy 90% AFUE furnaces (or greater).  Here in the colder climate, this will mean abandoning existing masonry chimneys for direct PVC venting as 90% furnaces cannot be vented into existing chimneys without causing serious condensation problems.  This, however, may not eliminate chimney condensation and deterioration because many homeowners will have separate gas hot water heaters still venting into masonry chimneys without the 80% furnace and will need a chimney liner to prevent condensation and mortar erosion. This will be a boon for chimney companies, but a major expense for homeowners already reeling from the current economic pressures.  The added costs of a chimney liner, higher efficiency furnace, condensate drain and PVC venting could add $2000 to $3000 to an installation.  The DOE  has estimated that consumers will save 11% in fuel costs only by installing a 90% gas furnace in lieu of an 80% gas furnace, so clearly the ROI might never be met because of the added installation costs.  In the long run, the DOE is estimating that consumers will only save $175 over the life of the furnace when additional installation costs are considered.  This does not take into account the added cost of a chimney liner for existing hot water heaters. It also does not take into account the savings created by a two stage 80% gas furnace at partial load. Based upon these numbers, the lower life cycle cost savings (including installation differential)  would come from a two stage 80% gas furnace over a 90% single stage condensing gas furnace.

For those who do not want to incur the added expenses associated with installing a 90%+ condensing furnace, it might be a good idea to replace early this winter and ensure that you have another 15 years before you have to face the additional work required by the new code standards. 

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

HVAC and Global Social Conscience

In a recent New York Times article entitled “The Cost of Cool, author Elisabeth Rosenthal noted the trade offs of the environmental cost of air conditioning versus the economic benefits created by it.  With the rise of the Middle Class in countries like Brasil, India and China, there will be nearly one billion new warm weather consumers interested in the comfort, health and increased productivity provided by mechanical cooling.  This will add a massive demand to the already fragile electrical transmission infrastructures of these countries. Air conditioning is already the main culprit cited for American summer brownouts and blackouts. It was most assuredly also the cause of the massive Indian blackout that saw northern India’s electric transmission system failure for several weeks.

Here in the U.S., 87% of households have some form of air conditioning, whereas only 11% of households in Brasil and only 2% in India have it.  Regardless of our efforts towards conservation by raising efficiency standards, we will not be able to offset the electrical consumption needs of the rest of the growing industrialized nations who are rightfully demanding their middle class creature comforts. The Montreal Protocol may call for the elimination of CFCs in its effort to reduce global warming, but it does nothing to insure the increase of efficiency standards for air conditioning equipment worldwide.  We can manufacturer as many 20 SEER air conditioning units as we want, but if China is producing an equal or greater amount of 10 SEER units, where does this put our electrical consumption on a global scale? In fact, there is no International governing body looking out for global energy efficiency standards.

The Collaborative Labeling & Appliance Standards Program (CLASP) is a global non-profit that was founded in 1999 through a strategic cooperation of three organizations – the Alliance to Save Energy, the International Institute for Energy Conservation, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory – to address the growing energy demand and contributions to climate change of developing countries.  Among its many advocacies, CLASP pushes developing nations to adopt Minimum Energy Performance Standards or MEPS for appliances and lighting, but it has no regulatory power. It acts as a clearinghouse or archive for energy efficiency standards and labeling programs on a global basis. However, without some type of responsible global cooperative body negotiating and enforcing energy efficiency compliance worldwide, we will continue on a collision course with energy resource depletion regardless of the individual efforts of national energy efficiency programs.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!