• New Year’s Resolution? Energy Efficiency
    With the holiday festivities behind us, let's make some plans for the coming year. What will your resolution be? With ongoing environmental troubles in the headlines, why not use your newfound will power to get busy crafting a more energy efficient home?

    A key piece of your plan can be conversion to natural gas. Gas home heating systems can keep you warm at a 97 percent rate of efficiency. Gas water heaters can warm up twice the volume that electric heaters can handle in an hour. In the kitchen, gas ranges allow you to control the burners minutely and immediately, avoiding the energy wasted by gradual heating and cooling. Gas fireplaces give you the coziness of a hearth without sending ashes-or the house's warmth-up the chimney.

    Of course, not all gas appliances are created equal. Some are more efficient than others, so to make good on your resolution, you will want to seek out the most effective gas appliances you can afford. 

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rates the efficiency of furnaces and boilers using a measure called annual fuel utilization (AFUE), which accounts for the ratio between the appliance's heat output and energy consumption every year. If a furnace has an AFUE of 90 percent, then 90 percent of the energy in its fuel turns to heat for one's home, while the other 10 percent is lost. The FTC now requires vendors of new furnaces and boilers display the appliances' AFUEs so consumers can make informed decisions.

    High-efficiency gas heating systems will have an AFUE of 90 to 97 percent, and will include a system for condensing flue gases in a second heat exchanger and be equipped for sealed combustion. While most new, all-electric heating system have an AFUE of 95 to 100 percent, the high cost of electricity often makes them prohibitively expensive. High-efficiency gas heaters, which achieve similar efficiency ratings and will save money on fuel costs compared to low-efficiency gas units, are particularly appealing.

    Even if you are not in the market for a new heating system, you can still greatly increase your home's efficiency by upgrading your existing appliances. This is good for your wallet and also for the earth. In a cold climate, transforming a gas furnace or boiler rated at 56 percent AFUE into a rating of 90 AFUE can prevent some 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

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