Furnace fans use electricity to circulate air heated by the furnace through a home’s duct system into the living space. For homes with central air conditioning, the furnace fan also serves to circulate air during the cooling season. The terms “furnace fan” and “air handler” can be used interchangeably. The air handler consists of the fan and motor, housing, controls, and other necessary elements.
On June 25, 2014, DOE set set the first national efficiency standards for furnace fans which would reduce the energy consumption of those products by about 40%. DOE found that large reductions in energy use can be achieved by improving the efficiency of the motor that drives the fan. Typical furnace fans today use permanent split capacitor (PSC) motors but brushless permanent magnet (BPM) motors are more efficient and can be used to meet the new performance standards. BPM motors are able to achieve high efficiencies at multiple airflow settings. (Higher airflows are required in cooling mode compared to heating mode.). DOE estimates that for products sold over 30 years, the proposed standards will reduce energy consumption nationwide by about 500 billion kilowatt hours, an amount equal to the annual electricity use of about 47 million U.S. households, and will save consumers $29 billion. The energy savings from the new standards will translate to reductions in CO2 emissions of about 180 million metric tons.
The standards will take effect in 2019.
Furnace fans are among the largest users of electricity in a typical household, consuming about 1000 kWh of electricity per year on average, or nearly 10% of an average household’s electricity use. High-efficiency furnace fans are commonly available with condensing furnaces, but can also be found on non-condensing models.