Consumer’s Guide to Purchasing a New Heating System

High-efficiency choices to help make decisions.

What Are Energy Efficiency Ratings?

The Efficiency Ratings standards are set by the U.S. Department of Energy under the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987, which became effective January 1, 1992.
All heating systems have what's called an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. The rating is expressed in percentages.

Minimum Efficiency Standards
Natural gas furnace 80% AFUE
Oil furnace 83% AFUE
Gas-fired hot water boilers 82% AFUE
Gas-fired steam 80% AFUE
Oil-fired steam 82% AFUE
Oil-fired hot water boilers 84% AFUE


The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating system, and the less energy needed to heat your home.

For example, a new, high-efficiency furnace with a 94 percent efficiency rating provides 94 cents worth of heat from every energy dollar. By comparison, an older, standard efficiency furnace with an efficiency rating of 60 percent provides 60 cents worth of heat for every dollar spent.


Understanding the Simple Payback of Annual Energy and Financial Savings

If you install a residential warm air furnace at 90 percent AFUE vs. 80 percent AFUE, the estimated annual savings in energy costs is $115, with a simple payback of approximately three years*.
*Analysis of annual savings provided by the Consortium of Energy Efficiency, a national non-profit organization consisting of utilities, government agencies and energy-efficiency groups.   


Venting Your Heating System

The installation of a high-efficiency heating system often requires changes to your venting system. You should consult with your contractor for proper venting methods.


Guarantees and Warranties

A new heating system is a major investment. Be sure you understand the warranties that come with your new equipment and ask questions for clarification.


How to Select Your Heating System Size

Rely on a qualified heating contractor when selecting the size of your heating system. A system that is too large can be wasteful, and a system that is too small can't provide proper comfort and will be overworked. Qualified contractors help you make smart decisions.

  1. A qualified heating contractor can help you estimate the heat-loss in your home by evaluating the insulation levels and the square footage of wall, roof, and floor space exposed to the outside.
  2. Using the outdoor and desired indoor temperatures, they can calculate the appropriate capacity for your new heating system, measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units) per hour.
  3. Many new heating systems offer variable output, meaning that they supply less heat when the outdoor temperature is warmer. This capability allows the amount of heat to be more fine-tuned to what your home needs rather than running at high temperature all the time, a feature that will save you money both through lower operating cost, and also by extending the life of your furnace or boiler.

Also keep in mind that a home that is well-insulated and properly air- sealed will ensure optimal savings. If you have not had a no-cost Home Energy Assessment, call 1-866-527-SAVE to sign up to have your insulation evaluated.

To ensure quality and service, contact several plumber and heating contractors who will inspect your home and offer an estimate. Make sure that they have the appropriate license and insurance.


What to Expect:

  1. Reliable companies will send an estimator to provide a survey and a heat-loss calculation for your home.
  2. The contractor should also supply you with a written proposal clearly outlining the work to be done with the agreed upon price, and many offer service after the installation is complete.


Financing and Rebates

When evaluating your proposals, keep in mind that there may be rebates and financing available to you through Mass Save® or through the manufacturer of your equipment.