December 21, 2021

There’s a substantial price difference between 96 AFUE and 80 AFUE furnaces. Is the extra money worth it? Let’s review the pros and cons of each to help you decide what’s best for your home.

What AFUE Means and How It Affects Your Heating Bill

Choosing the right furnace begins with AFUE and understanding how it impacts your energy bill. AFUE, or annual fuel utilization efficiency, measures how efficient your furnace is at turning natural gas into heat. A higher number means less gas is wasted during the heating process.

Here are some of the most common ratings:

  • 80 AFUE—minimum efficiency rating in the U.S.
  • 95 AFUE—ENERGY STAR® rating for furnaces in Wyoming.
  • 98 AFUE—highest efficiency rating available.

If a furnace is rated at 80 AFUE, that means it will waste 20 cents of each dollar you spend on heating. In contrast, a 96 AFUE furnace will only waste 4 cents.

That might not sound like a huge difference, but it adds up over the winter. And it’ll add up over your furnace’s lifetime, which is typically 15–20 years.

80 AFUE vs. 96 AFUE

Besides a higher efficiency rating, there are several key differences between 80 AFUE and 96 AFUE. Here are a few things that set a 96 furnace apart.

  • ENERGY STAR® rated. A furnace that’s ENERGY STAR rated helps you save on heating bills, plus it’s better for the environment. When compared to a baseline model like 80 AFUE, ENERGY STAR says you can expect to save around $85 a year (or more) on energy costs.
  • Heat stages. Most 80 AFUE furnaces only have one speed: full blast. The most efficient furnaces often have two-stage or modulating gas valves. This means you’ll be more comfortable while using less gas.
  • Variable-speed blower. Your furnace’s blower distributes warm air throughout your home and uses a lot of electricity in the process. The blower typically can only run on high in an 80 AFUE furnace. A 96 AFUE furnace usually has a variable-speed blower, which can deliver the same comfort while running at a lower speed.
  • Noise-reduction technology. Furnaces can be loud when they start up. In addition to quiet variable-speed heating, higher-end 96 AFUE models often have sealed and insulated cabinets that reduce disruptive noises.
  • If you install a 96 AFUE furnace, you can get a $400 rebate from Black Hills Energy. The rebate is only $250 for an 80 AFUE model. The difference helps offset the cost of a more expensive furnace.

When an 80 AFUE Furnace Makes Sense

When it’s time for furnace installation, we recommend choosing the most efficient model that you can afford. However, there are a few instances where choosing an 80 AFUE furnace may be a better option.

  1. You’re planning to sell your house soon. While a new HVAC system is attractive to potential buyers, they may not be as concerned about the efficiency ratings.
  2. Your old furnace failed sooner than you thought it would. We understand replacing a furnace can be an expense that you’re not fully prepared for. You might be working with a smaller budget if you’re faced with an emergency.
  3. You’re on a limited budget. Getting a new furnace is expensive. The most efficient models can be three times as much—or more—than a baseline model.

We Make Furnace Installation Stress-Free

Now that you’ve learned the difference between 96 AFUE and 80 AFUE, you’re well prepared when the time comes for a new furnace. As your local Lennox® Premier Dealer™, AC Mechanical is here to make furnace installation in Cheyenne and surrounding areas as stress-free as possible. Request a free estimate by calling us at 307-778-0515 today!

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