What does the new efficiency standard for gas furnaces mean to home owners?

A new national minimum energy performance standard for gas furnaces will come into effect on December 31, 2009. Gas furnaces for most residential applications manufactured as of that date must have a minimum fuel efficiency level of 90% AFUE. The final Regulation evolved over many years of consultation with stakeholders – including manufacturers, distributors and contractors in the heating industry as well as utilities and provincial governments. It was published in the Canada Gazette Part II, on December 24, 2008, after a 75 day public review and comment period. It applies to gas-fired central forced air furnaces that use propane or natural gas, but does not include furnaces for mobile homes or recreational vehicles.

This new level of efficiency is achieved primarily through “condensing technology”. Therefore, these furnaces are commonly referred to as condensing gas furnaces. They typically use a larger heat exchanger to condense the water vapour in the exhaust gas, thereby extracting more usable heat. This type of technology has been used in furnaces for more than twenty years. In Canada, more than 60% of gas furnaces sold in 2008 were condensing furnaces.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Government implementing this new standard?

The new Regulation is part of Canada’s ongoing efforts to address climate change and improve the environment. Condensing furnaces are also cost-effective for homeowners in that the fuel consumption will be reduced by about 12% when compared to furnaces at the current minimum standard (78% efficient). The actual savings will depend on the size of the furnace and the construction of your home.

What does the new gas furnace Regulation mean to me?

The new gas furnace Regulation may not currently affect you. The Regulation has nothing to do with the furnace that is currently in your house, and only affects furnaces that are manufactured on or after December 31, 2009. You can keep your existing furnace for as long as you wish. Any replacement furnace manufactured on or after December 31, 2009 and imported or shipped interprovincially for sale or lease in Canada will need to comply with the new gas furnace Regulation.

How is the new high efficiency furnace different than the furnace I have now?

You may already have a high efficiency furnace, in which case there would be no substantial difference. If you currently own a standard efficiency furnace, the new condensing furnace will be different from yours in several respects. The condensing technology used in a high efficiency furnace makes it more efficient than a standard efficiency furnace (minimum 78% efficient) by using a larger heat exchanger to condense the exhaust gases. The condensate resulting from this process needs to be disposed of, often to a floor drain or through the basement floor. This type of furnace will also be vented in a different way than your standard efficiency model. Due to the lower exhaust gas temperature, a condensing furnace is vented using approved venting material, commonly through a side wall.

What is AFUE?

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) is a way of referring to a furnace's heating efficiency. It compares the amount of heat actually delivered to your house to the amount of fuel supplied to the furnace. The number can be used to compare one furnace's efficiency with another. The higher the AFUE is, the lower the fuel usage for a given heating season will be.

Will I be able to buy a new standard (mid-) efficiency furnace to replace my current one after December 31, 2009?

You may be able to purchase a standard efficiency furnace as distributors deplete their current inventory of products manufactured prior to December 31, 2009.

If my standard (mid-) efficiency furnace breaks down, can I have it repaired?

If your heating contractor determines that the furnace is repairable, you can repair it without having to replace it.

I heard that high efficiency furnaces cost more.

In general high efficiency furnaces cost more than standard efficiency furnaces. However, the higher costs are typically offset by future fuel cost savings.

Can I use my existing chimney to exhaust my new high efficiency furnace?

In most applications a high efficiency furnace will have an approved vent that is commonly vented through a side wall. Sometimes the approved venting material can be routed through your existing chimney. A heating contractor can help determine the venting requirements for your house.

Can I get rid of my existing chimney if I get a high efficiency furnace?

It depends. You may still require your existing chimney for exhausting other gas appliances that you already have in your home, such as a gas-fired hot water tank. Your heating contractor can help determine your venting requirements.

I don’t have an obvious place to run a new vent. What do I do?

In some situations venting your new furnace is more complex (e.g., narrow, attached houses with front and rear obstructions, closely spaced doorways and large windows or full width porches and/or decks). Your heating contractor should be able to provide you with a range of options.

Will my new high efficiency furnace qualify for a grant in the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program?

Please see the ecoENERGY Grant Table for details on eligible improvements/retrofits.

Will my high efficiency gas furnace qualify for a provincial or utility rebate program?

Each program is designed differently. You will need to verify the eligibility with your utility or province.

Are furnaces designed for use in mobile homes affected?

Furnaces that are specifically designed for use in a mobile home or recreational vehicle are not subject to the Regulation.

Are through-the-wall furnaces covered by the Regulation?

A through-the-wall gas furnace is one that is installed in a small space, usually a closet, and has one side exposed to the outdoors. These units may have an air conditioning component along with a heating component. They are typically found in multiple unit residential buildings or apartments. This type of furnace will be required to meet an AFUE of 90% on or after December 31, 2012.