The U.S. Department of Energy is launching a new energy conservation standard for residential furnace fans that could save you some serious cash. The Fan Energy Rating, or FER, goes into effect July 3, 2019, and is expected to save American homeowners more than $9 billion in electrical costs by 2030. Here’s everything you need to know about FER and how it could help you save, too.
What is FER?
The Fan Energy Rating (FER) is a new efficiency rating system for furnace motors. The first of its kind, the regulation was published by the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 2014.
FER defines the efficiency of a furnace motor in terms of power used for the amount of airflow delivered, and factors in energy consumption in three different modes: heating, cooling, and constant circulation. The new rating requires a significant reduction in watt usage over conventional permanent split capacitor (PSC) motors — as much as a 46% reduction!
Two Different Types of Motors
The conventional PSC motor already mentioned has basic functionality: it’s designed to turn on and turn off. It has no variable speeds, and there’s no ability to control its output. As a result, the motor runs at a constant speed, using a constant flow of energy. For that reason, a PSC motor lacks efficiency.
By contrast, an electronically commutated motor (ECM) has variable speeds that respond to varying airflow needs. Typically, an ECM will start slowly, then increase the speed of the fan as needed. This significantly saves on energy because the fan can adjust throughout the heating or cooling cycle. As a result, ECMs are highly efficient in comparison to PSCs.
Why This New Regulation?
The FER regulation is intended to reduce overall energy consumption, cut carbon pollution, and save Americans billions of dollars. It means that manufactures must meet the regulation’s standard for all their furnaces by July of 2019. That guarantees that consumers buying a new furnace will receive one with a high-efficiency ECM in their unit.
What FER Means for You
The high efficiency of an ECM directly translates to energy savings and lower energy bills. As an example, a standard PSC fan for a 70,000 BTU furnace uses an average of 1,000 kilowatt-hours per year. The new FER standard will reduce that usage to 460 kilowatt-hours per year. If you live in Minnesota, that translates to about $60 per year. In Wisconsin, it's almost $66 per year.
What if You’re Not Ready for a Whole New Furnace?
While a new furnace will guarantee you have a high-efficiency motor, not everyone is ready to replace their old system. But you may not have to in order to get a high-efficiency ECM. Many HVAC pros have options to replace your old PSC motor with an ECM. Of course, this will depend on a number of factors including the age of your unit, the manufacturer, and the cost of retrofitting. Your HVAC professional can assess your system and let you know what options you have. Why not give them a call today?
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