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Here in the Denver Metro area, weather can go from balmy to blizzard overnight, and below-freezing cold snaps are not uncommon. So even with our 300 days of sunshine each year, having a reliable furnace is a necessity. While a high-efficiency furnace will cost more initially, the energy savings you will enjoy over the life of the system can offset the additional upfront expense.
Efficiency is determined by AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) and is a measure of how efficiently an appliance is converting energy to heat over the course of a typical year. Furnaces are rated as follows:
The higher the AFUE rating, the higher the upfront cost will be, but the quicker you will recoup your investment in energy cost savings.
Of course, you will see the greatest gains if you are going from a low-efficiency furnace to a high-efficiency furnace. In this case you can expect to see as much as 20-25% savings on your heating bill. If you are replacing a medium-efficiency furnace, the gains will be smaller.
When deciding which efficiency level to choose, it’s important to consider how long you plan to live in your home. On average, you can recoup the additional cost of the high-efficiency furnace within 10-15 years. If you are going to be in your home for more than 10 years, high efficiency can make good sense.
It’s important to note, however, that there are many variables that affect efficiency and, ultimately, energy costs. How well your home is insulated, the condition of your home’s ventilation system, the size of the house, whether there is southern exposure (passive solar benefit), etc., can all impact the performance of your furnace.
Many utility companies offer rebates for high-efficiency furnaces. The more efficient the furnace is, the greater the rebate is likely to be. Some municipalities also offer tax credits.