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      New furnace regulations turn up the heat for homeowners

      There's a burning issue in the furnace business with new federal regulations going into effect May 1.

      While most newer furnaces operate at about 80-percent fuel efficiency, new federal regulations will kick it up one notch further. On May 1, any furnace installed in the northern half of the United States must be at least 90-percent fuel efficient.

      While the energy savings will impact homeowners in a good way in the long run, the cost to purchase and install a more fuel efficient furnace will have consumers shelling out more short-term. The price impact will be especially significant for condominiums and apartment buildings.

      "To replace a standard efficiency furnace with a high efficiency furnace, you're usually looking at around $3,000 to $3,500," said Chris Woods, sales manager at Team Bob's in Traverse City. "Just to replace a standard efficiency, sometimes we see it as less than $2,000."

      The new furnace regulations require two new lines that are made of PVC pipe that must have direct access outside. One line is for air intake, the other for air exhaust.

      "The challenge with the new energy laws are, and where it's going to be more costly to the homeowner, is that their 20-year-old, 30-year-old, 80% efficient furnace, I can take out and hook up to that metal vent. After May 1 we can no longer do that, we have to go with the new venting system here."

      Wood says technicians are talking about the changes, and making sure they get the message out during service calls.

      "The new regulations are about venting and getting rid of condensation," explained Wood. "In a condo when you are stacking them next to each other, it makes it more difficult to install. The biggest issue coming into play is when there is no place to vent. In a regular home it's not such a problem."ã??

      Many homeowners have already taken advantage of energy tax credits and rebates involved with purchasing and installing a high-efficiency furnace. After the May 1 deadline, consumers won't have a choice.ã??

      Wood said you could get as much as $200 back with the reinstatement of a government tax credit known as the 25C credit. DTE Energy offers a $400 rebate for people who install a 95% or higher efficiency furnace. Consumers Energy is offering a $100 rebate for people who are installing a furnace with an electrically efficient blower motor. both DTE Energy and Consumers Energy offer a $10 rebate for the installation of programmable thermostats.