Will We Need 92% Efficient Furnaces in Texas?


Infographic courtesy of American Public Gas AssociationIn March, 2015 the Department of Energy issued a proposed rule mandating that all furnaces will have to have a minimum efficiency rating of 92% beginning in January, 2021.   The Natural Resources Defense Council recommended that efficiencies should be even higher.   The current minimum efficiency rating required by law is 80%.  This ruling would apply to furnaces sold to distributors as of that date, the rule does not comment regarding status of lower efficiency product existing in distributor inventory.  The American Gas Association filed a freedom of information act request with the Department of Energy to find out how they justified this proposed ruling.   In addition, many industry groups and manufacturers petitioned the Department of Energy against this ruling, citing increased costs to consumers that wouldn’t be justified by energy savings, as well as existing building and energy codes and physical limitations in older or multi family structures that would make such installations virtually impossible.  The Department of Energy remained silent on all this until September, 2016 when they released a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking.  The rule encompassed 488 pages, not including an 1198 page technical support document.  In that notice, the Department of Energy refused to back off its rule mandating minimum 92% efficient furnaces, granting only a small exemption to furnaces of 55,000 BTUH or less.  As we all know, the number of homes that would qualify for this exemption is quite small.  This ruling could even affect the manufactured housing market, as furnaces for this application are typically designed to fit in tight spaces.  In addition, this ruling will likely cause consumers to continue to repair aging equipment, which is even more inefficient than today’s standard, non-condensing furnace.

 

Many industry groups think this rule will ultimately undermine energy efficiency, because they believe many consumers, especially those in the South, will be compelled to change their natural gas furnaces to electric heat pumps.  The due date for final comments to the Department of Energy was January 6, 2017.  Nothing has been heard since.  At this point, the industry is waiting to see if the new administration vacates or mitigates this proposed rule.  If it does not, many major industry associations and manufacturers have publicly stated they will sue the Department of Energy to keep the rule from going into effect.  Stay tuned…

 

 

Infographic courtesy of American Public Gas Association