The first 100 years of central heating in America featured 0 lawsuits relative to furnace efficiency. That changed however when the Department of Energy began regulating the energy efficiency level residential furnaces and boilers in 1987. Not that the implementation of efficiency levels is a bad thing in its own right, but consider the latest turn of events.
In 2011 the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a ruling that effectively established regional standards – calling for 90% AFUE in the North and 80% AFUE in warmer southern climates. So far, so good. The ruling however did not account for certain issues when upgrading to more efficient furnaces, at least according to an association of natural gas utilities and equipment distributors who challenged the rule in court. In 2014 a settlement was announced that vacated DOE’s minimum efficiency standards and remanded the procedure back for further rulemaking. It certainly didn’t take them long to conclude their further rulemaking!
On February 10 the DOE issued a pre-publication notice of a proposed rule which would raise the national minimum energy efficiency standard for residential non-weatherized gas furnaces from 78% AFUE to 92%, while also setting new efficiency standards for electrical consumption in the standby mode!
So, if raising minimum efficiency standards under certain installation conditions doesn’t make sense in northern climates, how on earth can raising minimum efficiency standards to 92% everywhere possibly make sense? Perhaps only in Washington. Needless to say, industry officials are watching this closely. Stephen Yurek, president and CEO AHRI was quoted in a recent Refrigeration News article saying… “Even though natural gas and oil prices are lower than they were three years ago, DOE now feels a 92% nationwide standard is appropriate. How can that be? What’s changed?” In the same publication, John Metchi, vice president of government affairs and business development for HARDI said, “Anecdotally, I can tell you I’ve heard concerns from members regarding the potential cost to homeowners who would require a significant retrofit and the cost benefit to those residing in warm weather climates.” Charlie McCrudden, senior vice president of government relations for ACCA said he was surprised by DOE’s proposed 92% AFUE standard. “It’s very aggressive,” he said in the publication. “It effectively eliminates noncondensing furnaces starting in 2021.”
Did DOE take the 2014 settlement seriously? You be the judge.