Coalition Says U.S. Standard for Home Furnaces is a ‘Turkey’

A coalition of consumer, energy, and environmental organizations criticized the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for what they see as weak home furnace and boiler energy efficiency standards that have been announced. The new standards that were announced represent a small increase from the original levels set by Congress 20 years ago, and 99 percent of natural gas furnaces currently sold already meet the new minimum efficiency level.

The standard issued increases the minimum gas furnace efficiency level to 80 percent from the current level of 78 percent.

“DOE has delivered a ‘turkey’ of an efficiency rule,” said Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “This Thanksgiving, that’s bitter news for Americans who care about global warming, high energy prices, and our dependence on overseas energy.”

According to the DOE, very large energy, economic, and CO2 emission savings could have been achieved by setting a 90 percent national standard for gas furnaces or by applying a 90 percent standard to just the northern region of the country. DOE found that a national 90 percent standard would save 3.21 quadrillion Btus (quads) of energy over 24 years. As part of this finding the DOE is set to reevaluate the new standard.

“Based on their appeal for more time to consider higher standards, even DOE appears to know they’ve set too weak a standard,” said deLaski. “Given the savings at stake, DOE should act immediately to open a new rulemaking to reconsider higher standards.”

DOE rejected setting a 90 percent standard for just the northern half of the country on legal grounds. In response, both the House and Senate passed, as part of comprehensive energy legislation, bills that would make explicit DOE’s authority to create regional standards for heating and cooling products.

“The right furnace standard for Anchorage may not be the right one for Albuquerque,” said Steve Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. “Fortunately, Congress is ready to make sure DOE considers regional standards the next time it revises air conditioning or heating standards.”
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