Associated Press
In this Aug. 8, 2008 file photo, a high-efficiency natural gas furnace, hot water heater and air conditioning system is installed at a home.

Congress has passed a bill that will cause furnace prices to increase for Utah residents by the start of 2013.

A Senate bill, S.398, will cause an increase in energy-efficiency standards nationwide. For Utah this will mean a change from an 80 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) gas furnace minimum rating to a 90 percent AFUE minimum rating. The change will decrease Utah residents’ long-term natural gas costs but increase the upfront cost of buying the more efficient furnace.

The change will happen in two parts. On Jan. 1, 2013,new home builders will be required to install 90 percent gas furnaces in all of their new homes. On May 1, any furnace being changed out of an existing home must be replaced with a 90 percent model. The existing home owners and multi-family new construction markets will be the most affected by this change. Many new home builders have already transitioned to 90 percent furnaces.

Homes built over 20 years ago may see additional costs when installing the new equipment. This increase will be due to the lack of compatibility with the higher-efficiency furnace and the older construction methods of the home.

The price of replacing a furnace with a 90 percent efficient furnace over an 80 percent efficient unit will increase dramatically even under ideal conditions. The 90 percent model costs more than the 80 percent unit, requires a different venting and also requires draining due to condensation that is produced.

None of these are concerns when replacing a furnace with the 80 percent model.

“A basic price difference will be between about $1500 and $2000,” said David Maconey, the install manager for Action Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning.

Utah residents looking to stay in their home for more than five years will make up the cost difference in fuel savings. Those that are looking to move soon or that own rentals may want to get the old furnace replaced before the deadline in 2013. For more details on energy-efficiency changes, go to energy.gov.

With nearly 20 years experience in the HVAC industry, Doug Lukins works for Allred's Inc., a Utah-based HVAC wholesaler.