The Myth of High Efficiency Furnaces

Last Updated:
Fri, 2015-07-17 10:31
Last Commented:
Wed, 2011-12-14 13:55

Green Myths Debunked is an interesting CNN feature. While I don't agree with all of the myths (there's one that says that urban trees create pollution), I think that number 15, eco-friendly heating, hits the nail on the head.

The myth posited is that the greenest thing a person can do is have the highest efficiency furnace or air conditioner. The very true reality is that "it doesn't matter how efficient your furnace is if it's heating the outside of your house." The problem here is that the reality is hard to see, and it's hard to sell. So many homeowners and contractors get stuck on the number that is slapped onto the HVAC or furnance unit - look how efficient that bad boy is! Now try slapping a number on air leakage in a home. Do homeowners and contractors even realize that air leakage is occuring through electrical sockets, ductwork, floor boards, etc.?

I can already see comments where people will say, "But we can visualize the air leakage with a blower door." While I agree that a blower door will give us a solid estimate of the air leakage, less than 10,000 people nationwide have received blower door training. That's less than .03% of the construction industry and less than .003% of the U.S. population, so most people have never even heard of a blower door.

So how do we change the national mindset? I think that local code should require $200-$300 in basic home weatherization (caulking, weather-stripping, etc) every time a furnance or HVAC unit is replaced. Perhaps, instead of cash rebates for high efficiency systems, that money can be spent on mandated weatherstipping.