Guest blog from Keith, HVAC expert with Stay Comfy, Minnesota.
As you may have read recently in the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune or other news source, effective May 1, 2013, the HVAC energy efficiency standards as set by the Department of Energy will change. For the first time, these standards will be regional – north (including Minnesota), south and southwest. In the northern region, we will be allowed to install only gas fired furnaces that are 90-percent efficient or greater, but the air conditioning minimum efficiency of 13 SEER will remain the same.
In most situations, homeowners should experience a payback in fuel savings or a payback from the increased value of the home with a 90%+ furnace.
What this means for homeowners in the northern region:
- Standard furnaces, 80-percent efficient or less, are commonly vented through metal B vent, while 90-percent-plus condensing furnaces are vented through plastic PVC piping. If replacing an 80-percent furnace with a 90-percent unit, it will probably be necessary to install a new PVC venting system. In some situations the new vent system may add several hundred dollars to the installation cost.
- Additionally, most 80-percent furnaces share the metal B vent chimney with the gas-fired water heater. Once the 80-percent furnace is removed from the common vent it could cause the chimney to be over-sized for the water heater by itself. An over-sized B vent chimney can experience condensation and draft related problems, and is a code violation. A new chimney or a chimney liner may be required for the water heater adding additional costs to the installation.
- The Department of Energy has stated that there will be exceptions for hardship cases but offers no details as to what constitutes a hardship or who would have the authority to grant the exception. Hopefully we will have additional information for you on this in the near future.
Our advice to consumers is to weigh all of the options:
- Cost of a 90% furnace vs an 80% furnace
- Cost of the PVC venting system
- Cost of the modifications to the water heater chimney (if required)
- Rebates and other incentives available for the 90% furnace
- Fuel savings over the life of the furnace (90% vs 80% = 10% savings, 95% vs 80% = 15% savings)
The best advice the HVAC experts at Stay Comfy, Minnesota can offer right now is for each individual homeowner to review their own situation to see what is best for them. Contact your local Minnesota HVAC expert for more information on your specific needs.
For more energy saving and home comfort tips, visit StayComfyMinnesota.com! Stay Comfy, Minnesota is your Minnesota resource for air conditioning repair, furnace repair and HVAC tips and advice.