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High Performance Homes Rely on Natural Gas Appliances

Key Points
  • High-efficiency, natural gas appliances help home builders meet green certifications.
  • HVAC equipment must have an AFUE of 80 percent or higher, depending on climate.
  • Zero energy ready homes include tankless water heaters and gas furnaces.

zero energy home
High-efficiency furnaces and other appliances fueled by natural gas help builders earn points for several green certifications, including the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home, the successor to the Builders Challenge.

Natural gas led the way

The following examples showed how builders took advantage of natural gas to earn the Builders Challenge rating. This required a score of 70 or less on the EnergySmart Home Scale (E-Scale), which is based on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index.

Tindall Homes (Columbus, N.J.) featured two, high-efficiency (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 92 percent ), direct-vent furnaces in each home, as well as a direct-vent gas, tankless water heater with an Energy Factor (EF) above 0.90.

The Kacin Homes Summerset development (Pittsburgh, Penn.) sold 52 Craftsman bungalows within the first hour they were on the market. These homes featured direct-vent, 93 percent AFUE gas furnaces with fixed capacity fans and a power-vented gas storage water heater with an EF of 0.57.

Community Development Corporation's three energy-efficient homes in Magna, Utah featured a direct-vent, 96 percent AFUE gas furnace and a power-vented, 50-gallon gas storage water heater with an EF of 0.61.

Several other Builders Challenge winners also relied on high-efficiency natural gas furnaces, including David Weekley Homes’ Houston Division, which qualified more than 1,000 homes over several years.

Natural gas reaches the next level

zero home logo

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home takes energy efficiency to the next level and requires homes to be at least 40 to 50 percent more energy efficient than a typical new home. This corresponds to a HERS score in the low- to mid-50s (without solar). HVAC equipment must have an AFUE of 80 percent or higher, depending on climate. For water heating equipment, the EF must range from 0.67 to 0.77, depending on capacity (gallons).

Natural gas appliances helped achieve several zero energy homes, as the following 2017 winners show:

  • Addison Homes' 3,444-square-foot model in Greer, S.C. installed an ENERGY STAR™ tankless gas water heater with an Energy Factor of 0.98. Other features include low-flow fixtures and high-performance insulation.
  • Amaris Homes model in Afton, Minn., totaling nearly 4,000 square feet, has a HERS index of 39. Gas appliances include a 0.95 AFUE boiler for in-floor radiant heat and a hot water boiler with a super-insulated storage tank and recirculation pump.
  • Charis Homes' Aspen model (North Canton, Ohio) has more than 4,700 square feet of living space. It achieved an HERS index of 36 with the help of a 97.4 AFUE natural gas furnace and a tankless gas water heater with an Energy Factor of 0.98.
  • Thornhill Custom Homes' Preston Haven model (Dallas, Texas) has six bedrooms and five bathrooms, while still achieving a HERS index of 44. Two 0.96 AFUE furnaces and a tankless gas water heater with an EF of.94 helped achieve the low score.

In combination with other energy-efficient features, natural gas appliances are helping homeowners save money on their utility bills.


Image sources: U.S. Department of Energy