US Department of Energy announces new efficiency furnace standards. This will impact many home, condo and town home owners in the Northwest
DOE Regional Standards Effective May 2013
After years of debate, the US Department of Energy has finalized their new federal minimum energy conservation standard in the Northern region. Fuel efficiency ratings for furnaces will increase to 90 AFUE. The new standards will become effective May of 2013.
What will impact homeowners in the northern region, is the installation requirement of 90%+ minimum efficiency furnaces. We’re not talking about just new construction, but retrofit (replacement) as well. We are concerned about the impact this will have particularly on owners of condos, homes and town homes. As of today, when it’s time to replace an 80% furnace, the homeowner usually has little choice but to install a standard efficiency replacement furnace due to venting that makes upgrading nearly cost prohibitive. Upgrading to a high efficiency furnace requires a PVC vent, usually (and preferably) out the side of the home which can require drywall and painting expenses at a minimum. Energy conscious homeowners will opt for an 80% efficient furnace with a high efficiency, Direct Current drive blower motor.
Come May 2013, all home, condo and town home owners will have no choice but to install a 90%+ efficient furnace. In many cases, to make a high efficiency furnace work in some residences, the installation will require major remodeling work. This is true for homes where the mechanical system is in a closet or other interior space of the home.
If you’re a home owner and concerned about whether the new standards will impact you, here are a few things to consider. Most furnaces in condos and town homes that were built 10+ years ago are standard efficiency furnaces. If your furnace has a metal chimney, it is a standard efficiency furnace. A PVC vent connected to your furnace means you are OK to install a 90% efficient furnace. The second thing to look at is whether the utility room is on an exterior wall. An exterior wall allows a vent to be installed out the side of your home which may be fairly easy to do. Keep in mind that just because it’s on the exterior wall, a number of other factors still need to be considered to determine whether a high efficiency vent will be feasible. According to several local regulations and codes, you can’t have exhaust fumes near a window, fresh air intake, gas meter, etc. Lastly, running new venting is often not allowed by town home and condo associations – a guideline that will soon need to be changed.
Running the venting for a high efficiency furnace in a retrofit situation at a home, condo or town home can be extremely difficult. Although Cardinal Heating almost always recommends high efficiency equipment whenever possible, we are encouraging you to weigh your options NOW before the new laws go into effect in May 2013. If you delay, it’s possible that you will be facing sheetrock repair, soffit building, relocation of utility room, electrical, plumbing, siding and painting in order to comply with the installation of a 90% furnace.
High efficiency equipment is great – lower utility bills, smaller carbon footprint, quieter equipment, etc. However, this DOE mandate can really add up for a homeowner. We urge you to act now so you can make an informed and fiscally responsible decision before you have no choice. Local HVAC suppliers are already depleting their stock of 80% furnaces so that they are not stuck with inventory that cannot be sold. It will be against the law to sell or install any furnace less than a 90% efficiency rating beyond May 2013.
Call Cardinal Heating and A/C, Inc. at (425) 827-9997 and speak with an experienced sales associate and make a no obligation appointment to evaluate your system.