High Efficiency Furnaces and Boilers – how do they relate to my HEATING BILL?
November 21, 2013
With all of the high efficiency heating equipment being made and marketed now in the Waterloo Region, I thought I’d try to provide a little insight as to the rating system. As in most things, higher is generally better. There is no doubt that equipment manufacturers have made huge improvements. But what are they measuring and how does that relate to my heating bill? The devil is in the details.
Let me first start with the efficiency rating. This is usually expressed as a percentage, usually greater than 92%. What does this mean? Well, this number measures Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. It measures how much of the fuel actually gets converted into heat. As you can see by the numbers, they are actually very good. Does this actually translate directly into your monthly bill? Unfortunately not.
Why would that be? Well the answer is that the furnace and boiler manufacturers are almost as good at measuring as they are at getting efficiency. The reason is that it is achieved under almost ideal conditions. They know that most consumers will not dig down too deep, so it’s more effective to publicize a good number than it is to develop a robust solution that will perform at that level across most conditions.
Doesn’t that apply to all products across the range? The answer is yes. Under the same conditions, the higher efficiency furnace or boiler will outperform the lower efficiency number. But take a step back, and look at the numbers. How much difference can there be from 94 to 96% – particularly at these record low gas prices? Where am I going with this? The difference is in all of the things that the equipment manufacturer can’t control. Sizing, settings, installation quality, maintenance, and service all can affect your bill WAY MORE than that 2%!
Without getting too technical, let me give you one example. To repeat myself, this equipment is like almost all other equipment in that the more you run it, the more efficient it becomes. Every time you start something up it wastes a little bit of fuel – remember you’re only trying to make up 2%! But all heating equipment has to start and stop doesn’t it? Yes, but the trick is in how much. The only time people generally call their heating contractor is when they aren’t as warm as they’d like to be. What does the contractor do? Unfortunately, some chose to oversize the equipment – guaranteeing they won’t get a call. Guess what the hidden bonus is for the contractor? The unit fails quicker because it “short cycles” (turns on and off too frequently because it is too big for the house).
What should you do then? Make sure you choose a reputable heating contractor that takes the time to “right size” the equipment – you’ll get the heating bill you deserve!
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