Money-Saving Tips to Prepare Your Furnace for Winter

Can 'AFUE' Ratings Make You More Affluent?

Government fuel-efficiency ratings and Energy Star standards help point consumers to cost-effective products that use less energy and save money.

Energy Star qualified heating and cooling systems, when properly sized and installed, can save between 10 and 40 percent in energy costs when compared with non-Energy Star models.

"Any homeowner's campaign to save heating and cooling costs should start with the energy-efficiency rating," says Joe Muley, Sears, Roebuck and Co. vice president and general manager of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). "The energy-efficiency rating enables consumers to compare HVAC equipment 'apples to apples' and helps predict what a homeowner's monthly heating and cooling savings could be, after the initial investment." Energy efficiency may vary depending on the consumer's home and location.

When purchasing a new HVAC system, or when replacing either the central air conditioning or the furnace, consumers should be aware of two energy- efficiency ratings: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) for cooling and Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) for heating.

SEER evaluates the central air-conditioning unit's efficiency and is the rating most salespeople will quote when a customer is looking for an energy-efficient system. Central air conditioning units are rated from 10-to 18-SEER. Those with 12-SEER or higher receive the Energy Star rating from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The efficiency of a home's furnace is rated differently than a central air unit. AFUE measures the amount of fuel in gas or oil furnaces that is converted to space heat in proportion to the amount of fuel entering the furnace and is commonly expressed as a percentage. In other words, AFUE rates how efficiently the fuel becomes heat for your home. Typically, older furnaces operate at a 60 percent AFUE rating or less, which means 40 cents of every dollar used to buy heating fuel is wasted.

For gas and oil furnaces, the government requires an AFUE rating of 78 percent. An Energy Star product must meet or exceed a 90 percent efficiency rating to qualify for the Energy Star label (boilers must reach 85 percent to achieve Energy Star status).

Electric air-source heat pumps, which utilize air and electricity to heat and cool the home, have a separate Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) rating. To qualify for an Energy Star rating, air-source heat pumps must be 12-SEER and at least 7.6 HSPF.

What will this mean in energy savings? A good place to find that answer is the Department of Energy Website for Energy Star information. This Website includes a savings calculator that shows you how much money can be saved. Go to and click on "Find Products" at the top of the page. Then, simply click one of the following categories:

   --  Heating and Cooling
   --  Furnaces (or air source heat pump)
   --  What can Energy Star labeled furnaces (heat pumps) save me?
   --  Furnace (heat pump) savings calculator.

The calculator has a simple fill-in-the-blank format that allows the user to determine potential savings. The Energy Star Web site also includes links to the Department of Energy's Energy Star Partners' Web sites.

Homeowners considering a new high-efficiency heating system should look for a contractor that supports and sells Energy Star labeled products.

"It is critical that homeowners know and trust their installers," Muley said. "Be sure to ask the contractor for references from previous customers. Ask for both a manufacturer's and installation warranty, plus a money-back guarantee. Be sure to get these warranties in writing. Contractors must be licensed and should be insured. And of course, be sure the contractor services the equipment and provides emergency repair."

Sears, Roebuck and Co. has been named the DOE Energy Star Retail Partner of the Year for the past two years, and continues to develop programs to help educate consumers to the features and benefits of using Energy Star qualified products.

To help encourage use of Energy Star products, Sears periodically offers zero percent financing on Energy Star products. Sears carries a full line of residential HVAC systems including the Kenmore and Trane brands.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. is a leading U.S. retailer of apparel, home and automotive products and services, with annual revenue of more than $40 billion. The company serves families in the U.S. through Sears stores nationwide, including approximately 860 full-line stores. Sears also offers a wide variety of merchandise and services through its Web site, .


SOURCE: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Contact: Media, Marlene Tsareff of MRA, Inc., +1-317-769-7600, , or Larry Costello of Sears PR, +1-847-286-9036, , both for Sears, Roebuck and Co.



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