Furnace Fans



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.


A DOE rulemaking is underway to set the first national efficiency standards for furnace fans.  DOE released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) for furnace fans on October, 1, 2013. In the NOPR, 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. The standard levels proposed by DOE could be met using constant-torque brushless permanent magnet (BPM) motors, also known as electronically-commutated motors (ECMs). BPM motors are able to achieve high efficiencies at multiple airflow settings. (Higher airflows are required in cooling mode compared to heating mode.) The proposed standards would reduce the energy consumption of furnace fans by about 40%. DOE estimates that for products sold over 30 years, the proposed standards would reduce energy use nationwide by 4.6 quadrillion Btu (annual U.S. energy consumption is about 100 quadrillion Btu), reduce CO2 emissions by 430 million metric tons and net consumers about $26 billion in savings  DOE must publish a final rule by December 31, 2013.


Furnace fans are among the largest users of electricity in a typical household, consuming about 800 kWh of electricity per year on average, or roughly 7% 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.



Federal Date State
Potential Effective Date of Updated Standard 2016
Updated DOE Standard Due 2013
2007 MD Standard Adopted
2006 NH Standard Adopted
2006 VT Standard Adopted
EPACT Initial Federal Legislation Enacted 2005
2005 MA Standard Adopted
2005 RI Standard Adopted

States not showing an effective date have an ongoing rulemaking process to determine standards.

Timeline reflects state standards from 2001 to present; federal standards from inception to present.

Appliance Standards Awareness Project - 16 Cohasset Street - Boston, MA 02131
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