The Hidden Flaw in Some High-Efficiency Furnaces

first_imgI took a look at the RightSuite listed blower power ratings for five different manufacturers. They were all in the range of 40-44 thousand BTU per hour (kBTU/hr) with AFUE ratings of 94.1 to 96.5. What I found is summarized in the table shown at right.That’s quite a difference. The average low blower power (224 W) is about a third the average high blower power (633 W). And the worst one in there (893 W) is another 41% higher than the average high.The effect of an energy hog blowerWhat this means is that when you choose a furnace, the effect on the heating bill hits two ways. A higher AFUE means you pay a lower gas bill. It does not mean, however, that your overall energy bills are lower. If you live somewhere with a mild climate, it may not affect you very much. The more that blower runs, though, the higher the electricity bill will be. You can tell how energy-efficient a furnace is by its official efficiency rating, the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). It’s a measure of how much of the heat originally in the fuel that’s being burned is available for delivery to the home. The more heat that gets lost up the flue or through the cabinet, the lower the AFUE.But that rating doesn’t capture all the ways a furnace can lose efficiency. Some, like how well the heat gets distributed to the house, aren’t related to the furnace itself. But there’s one big one that is related to the furnace.Unlike air conditioners and heat pumps, furnaces use two sources of energy. The fuel that it burns is the obvious one. (It’s usually natural gas or propane.) The other is the electricity that runs the blower. And that’s the key to finding a high-efficiency furnace that truly operates at high efficiency.A peek at manufacturer’s specsI was working on a mechanical design for one of our clients recently and was going through the equipment selection process. The software we use (RightSuite Universal) has a lot of equipment data built in, so I can just find a manufacturer, set the limits for sizing and efficiency, and look at the options.Once I get my list of options reduced to a reasonable number, I can choose a model that meets my requirements. But I have to go in and make sure to look at the blower power rating for each one or I could end up saddling the client with a furnace that looks like it should be efficient but really isn’t. RELATED ARTICLESGovernment Orders More Efficient Furnace FansQ&A: Swapping ECM for PSC fan motorDesigning a Good Ventilation SystemStupid Energy-Saving TipsAll About Furnaces and Duct Systemscenter_img Also, remember, when you pair a furnace with an air conditioner or a heat pump, that same blower is used for heating and cooling. So if the furnace blower is an energy hog, the homeowner will pay for it year-round.Let’s look at some numbers. To figure out how the blower’s power use affects your electricity bills, we need to know how many hours it’s going to run. If you look online for annual runtime, you’ll see some numbers that are too high. One was as high as 3,600 hours per year, implying that the system runs an average of 10 hours per day, 365 days per year.So I checked with someone who knows and found out that the national average is probably around 1,500 hours per year, and it’s more like 2,000 hours per year in a hot climate where the air conditioner runs a lot. Since we design systems that aren’t nearly as oversized as the typical ones, I’ll use 2,000 hours in my calculations. (Right-sized systems have more runtime.)The most efficient blower in the table above uses 131 W. Multiply that by 2,000 hours, convert from W to kW, and we find that this blower uses 262 kWh per year. The worst blower uses 893 W, so its annual consumption is 1,786 kWh. Wow! That’s almost six times more electricity use.Of course, the other big factor that affects the electricity cost is the rate you pay, so I calculated the annual cost for these two blowers for three rates, $0.08, $0.12, and $0.16 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).Annual cost in dollars of running different types of furnace fansAs you can see in the table shown at right, the difference between a low-power blower and a high-power blower can be significant. If the furnace lasts 15 years, it can cost $2,000 to $3,000 extra if you make the wrong choice.Another way to check furnace electricity useMy little calculation above is just a simple way to show that you should pay attention to the both forms of energy used in a furnace. As it turns out, you can look up an estimate of how much electricity a furnace uses. It’s the Eae shown on the AHRI certificate from the AHRI Directory. (AHRI is the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute.)What is the Eae, you ask? It’s the “average annual auxiliary electrical energy consumption for a gas furnace in kilowatt-hours per year. It is a measure of the total electrical energy supplied to a furnace during a one-year period.” That’s AHRI’s definition.When you go to the AHRI Directory, you can (sometimes) find the certificate for a particular furnace. The certified data are the AFUE and output capacity. They also show some reference data, “not certified by AHRI.” Among those is the Eae, given in kWh per year. I looked at the numbers for some of the models I listed above and found the Eae numbers are significantly lower than what I calculated. The highest one I found was 732 kWh/year, about 1,000 kWh less than my high number.Bottom line: Check your specs!What I’ve presented here is a simplified analysis. To get to the actual effect of the blower on your energy bills, we’d need to know about the ducts. A well designed and installed duct system won’t resist the air flow as much as a typical duct system, and that affects the blower. Another real-world factor is that actual performance usually differs from manufacturer’s specifications. When you can get actual data, you can make an even better decision.Still, using the manufacturer’s specs or the Eae is a good first step. Not all high-efficiency furnaces are created equal, and when looking for a furnace you should be aware that the AFUE is only one part of the efficiency. Be sure to look at the blower power, too, because that can have a huge effect on your energy costs. The best ones use electronically commutated motors (ECM). The worst use permanent split capacitor (PSC) motors. And if your utility is selling you dirty electricity, you pollute more as well. Allison Bailes of Decatur, Georgia, is a speaker, writer, building science consultant, and the author of the Energy Vanguard Blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @EnergyVanguard.last_img read more

4 Battle-Tested Strategies That Create a Competitive Advantage

first_imgThe following sales strategies are generally underrated, overlooked, or ignored. In some cases, they are highly unpopular in a world that is enamored with transactions, immediate gratification, and technologies that promise efficiency, a promise that is mostly a lie. These four strategies are also battle-tested, which is to say, have passed the test and created a competitive advantage.When you sell, you are trying to create a preference to work with you and your team, excluding your competition. What I mean when I write about value creation is your approach, your strategy, and your ability to be consultative.Shaping the Client’s ViewSadly, the sales profession is falling behind when it comes to shaping the client’s view of their problem and the potential solutions. Those who struggle still hold on to the belief that they are going to win large, complex B2B sales by relying on their company’s reputation and their solution. While these things may provide some small benefit, they do nothing to shape the prospective client’s understanding of their problem, what exactly they should do about it, or how they should go about changing.You shape the primary question the client is asking by providing context that modifies the lens through which they view their problem, challenge, or opportunity (see Eat Their Lunch, Chapter 2) Can you help them make sense of their world and their business? Can you help them understand what their choices are and why they should choose one course of action over others?Win customers away from your competition. Check out Eat Their LunchWe resist doing hard things.Having a Physical PresenceMost salespeople—and the sales organizations for whom they work—are not interested in the strategy of showing up. The desire to be efficient with time, our changing communication preferences, and our desire to transact (i.e.,, has salespeople mistakenly believing they can have the sales conversation over email.At the very time I am writing these words, a salesperson I know has a scheduled meeting with a prospect in their prospect’s home office. She is meeting with them on her vacation. No one else competing for this business will have visited the client in their home office. What do you believe her chances of winning might be?There is a tremendous competitive advantage to having a physical presence. You show you care enough to come and learn about the client and their needs. You get to meet the people who are making the decision, and you get to understand what they want from you. Even more, they get to see you writing down what they say, an indication that you are going to try to give them what they want.The approach here is the opposite of what we might describe as the pen pal theory of selling.Stealing TimeThis approach is underrated, and mainly because there is little will to have a physical presence. Your prospective client is going to spend time with a few salespeople or sales organizations. Unless you are in an RFP and limited to one hour to sell (strategy here), you are competing for time.My friends at Gartner shared with me that buyers spend something like 18% of their time working on a purchase with salespeople. Generally, each sales organization gets something like 6% of their time. The more time you command, the more time you have to sell effectively and create a preference to work with you.In all things, you want an asymmetrical advantage. If you could double the time you spend with the client, you create a competitive advantage. You might also limit the time they have for your competitors. The strategy here is very much like clock management in a football game; if I have the control of the ball, I can keep you on defense and prevent you from scoring.Defining or Revising the ProcessWho controls the process wins. My second book, The Lost Art of Closing, is about controlling the process and ensuring your dream client makes and keeps the commitments necessary for making a good decision. The book is practical and tactical, even if the word “closing” frightens people into believing it is an old school, Glengarry Glenn Ross approach (it is, in fact, quite the opposite).No more pushy sales tactics. The Lost Art of Closing shows you how to proactively lead your customer and close your sales. When you are selling, you are helping your prospective client with a better outcome. Much of the time, they don’t know what they need to do or why they need to do it. So, they skip some of the commitments. They try to accelerate the process by having a single meeting and asking for a proposal, even though there are other conversations and decisions they need to have first.The person who can define the process—or revise it—creates a competitive advantage. If your competitors are not having the same conversations and are operating from a model that suggests they follow the client’s lead, you create a gap between their experience with you and their experience with your competition.Executing the 4 StrategiesIt is unlikely that these strategies conflict with your sales process. Nor will they lessen the effectiveness of any of your sales methodologies. You won’t hear complaints from your sales manager (with the execution of a more considerable expense report from trips to meet clients), nor will your dream clients gripe about you spending time with them or helping them solve their problems.What’s difficult about these strategies is changing your behaviors and doing the work. Essential Reading! Get my first book: The Only Sale Guide You’ll Ever Need “The USA Today bestseller by the star sales speaker and author of The Sales Blog that reveals how all salespeople can attain huge sales success through strategies backed by extensive research and experience.” Buy Nowlast_img read more