Furnaces are the most common residential heating system in the Unites States. Wisconsin’s cold climate makes a high-efficiency furnace a good investment. If your furnace is old, worn out, inefficient, or significantly oversized, the simplest solution is to replace it with a modern high efficiency model. Although older furnaces had efficiencies in the range of 56%–70%, modern conventional heating systems can achieve efficiencies as high as 97%, converting nearly all the fuel to useful heat for your home. Energy efficiency upgrades and a new high efficiency heating system with multi-stage firing and an ECM fan motor can often cut your fuel bills and your furnace's pollution output in half. 

Some definitions and information on furnaces: 

AFUE: The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) measures a furnace’s overall energy performance. The higher the AFUE, the more heat you get for your heating dollar. Focus on Energy recommends an AFUE of 90% or greater. This means that 90% of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 10% escapes up the chimney and elsewhere. 

Multi-stage Firing: Your furnace must have enough capacity to meet your heating needs on the coldest day of winter. However, for most of the heating season your furnace will have more heating capacity than you need. 

Unlike a furnace with single-stage firing that is either firing at full output or completely off, a furnace with multi-stage firing can selectively turn some burners off when the full furnace output is not needed. Multi-stage firing gives you the right size furnace for the majority of the heating season, and a reserve capacity to meet additional heating needs on really cold days or to recover from a temperature setback period. 

Variable-Speed Motor: Furnaces with a VSM, also known as an electronically commutated motor (ECM), have lower annual operating costs and can save you $80 to $380 per year depending on how you use the furnace fan. You will see the most savings if you run your new fan on "auto." Running your fan on auto vs. continuous operation can save about $80 a year in electricity costs. 

Proper Installation: Your new furnace must be installed properly to ensure that it operates safely and efficiently. The contractor should adjust the air flow so the furnace fan setting is matched to the ductwork and furnace characteristics. An improperly installed furnace can result in higher energy costs and a less comfortable home. 

Flue Closure: If you have installed a high-efficiency furnace or boiler and there is no other equipment vented through your chimney, the interior flue should be sealed off to reduce heat loss through the opening in the roof. By closing the flue, you will prevent warm air from escaping your house—increasing your comfort, and saving energy and money. 

Connect with an expert!

Focus on Energy is your source for objective, third-party information and advice to help you make smart energy decisions that save money. Take advantage of expert advice, technical assistance, and financial incentives. 

Focus on Energy works with local Trade Allies such as vendors and contractors to deliver energy-efficiency services throughout Wisconsin. Visit our search tool to find a Trade Ally to assist you with your energy-efficiency or renewable energy project today. Call 800.762.7077 or email with your energy efficiency needs and learn how Focus on Energy can help you save energy and money today! 

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