The upfront cost of a boiler or furnace is typically what homeowners focus on when deciding on a new heating solution. But the actual cost of a heating system depends on its energy efficiency. The less fuel required to heat your home, the lower your energy bills. Even a low-cost heating unit can cost you more in the long run due to its high fuel costs. Here, we’re going to explore how to determine the energy efficiency of a boiler and furnace to help Boston homeowners make the best decision for their heating needs.

How do you measure the efficiency of a boiler?
Annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings are the gold standard for measuring the energy efficiency of boilers, furnaces, and other heating systems. AFUE refers to the efficiency with which a unit can convert fuel energy into heat energy over the course of a year. The purpose of averaging the efficiency over a full year is to correct for extremes that might provide an inaccurate overview of a system’s efficiency. Manufacturers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to feature the AFUE on boilers and furnaces to make it easier for consumers to compare the efficiency of different units.

How do you calculate AFUE?
AFUE ratings are calculated by dividing the amount of fuel energy a boiler or furnace burns throughout the year by the amount of heat energy produced by the unit during the same period. For example, if your gas boiler can successfully convert 85% of fossil fuel energy into heat for your home, it has an AFUE of 85%. That 15% of the energy that’s lost might escape through delivery systems such as ductwork or piping or could be a result of a damaged unit.

What is a good efficiency for a boiler?
Now that you know how to determine the energy efficiency of a boiler or furnace, you’re probably wondering “what’s a good AFUE rating?” According to the Department of Energy, high-efficiency systems can reach up to 98.5% AFUE with mid-efficiency heating systems hovering around 80%.
Of course, the higher-efficiency boilers and furnaces are ideal, but there are other factors to consider. Working with a professional can make it easier to determine the best AFUE for your home’s heating needs. Keep in mind that caring for a high-efficiency boiler requires some extra attention.

What factors affect boiler efficiency?
AFUE and other energy-efficiency ratings represent the optimum level of performance for heating systems. There is a multitude of factors that can impact the actual fuel efficiency of your unit such as:

Over time, all heating systems become less energy-efficient regardless of their AFUE ratings. Generally, boilers last anywhere between 10 and 15 years while furnaces have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. It’s important to consult a professional when your heating unit reaches the tail-end of its life expectancy to determine whether investing in a new unit would end up saving you money.

Your home’s insulation is responsible for locking in heat and keeping outside air from entering. When your insulation isn’t optimized, the energy efficiency of your boiler or furnace decreases as it takes more energy to heat the space as heat energy is allowed to escape. Boston homeowners should take care of any insulation problems before installing a new furnace or boiler as poor insulation can make it difficult to determine the ideal type of heating system.

The most effective way to maximize your boiler or furnace’s energy efficiency is to schedule routine maintenance from an HVAC expert. Regular servicing makes it easier to catch small problems that can cost you big time in the future both in terms of efficiency and damage control. It’s advisable to have your heating unit serviced by a professional at least twice per year. Whether you’re ready to replace your old heating system or trying to find the best option for new construction, the experts at Boston Standard Plumbing have you covered! We’ve been helping Boston homeowners with their heating needs for years. We can help you find the best boiler or furnace depending on your home’s heating requirements. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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