WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) approved new heating equipment standards for residential furnaces and boilers. The new standards increase the minimum natural gas furnace efficiency level to 80 percent as opposed to the current 78 percent AFUE. It also bumped natural gas boilers from 80 to 82 percent; oil furnaces from 78 to 82 percent; and oil boilers from 80 to 83 percent. The DOE estimates that these amended standards, which become effective in 2015, will save the equivalent of the total amount of energy consumed by 2.5 million American households in one year.

“These amended standards will not only cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, but they also allow consumers to make smarter energy choices that will save energy and money,” said Andy Karsner, DOE assistant secretary of energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Improving appliance standards is a top priority of the DOE, and in the coming years, we intend to maintain and, where possible, accelerate the extraordinary progress we have made over the last two years.”

The Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) was satisfied with the new standards and efficiency ruling. According to Joseph Mattingly, GAMA’s vice president, secretary, and general counsel, the DOE felt that it could not justify the federal 90 percent AFUE standard that multiple energy efficiency groups and organizations were strongly encouraging.

David Goldstein, energy program co-director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), cited the standards as “grossly inadequate.” According to Goldstein, a 90 percent natural gas furnace efficiency standard would provide more than 17 times the carbon savings.

“This decision makes it all too clear that the Energy Department attaches zero value to cutting global warming emissions.”

“Our country cannot create a sustainable energy and climate future through incrementalism,” echoed Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. “We need bold action from our government, but instead, for the second time in a row, DOE has issued a very weak efficiency standard that once again leaves important energy and CO2 savings on the table at a time when we can least afford continued waste.”

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) called the efficiency ruling a “turkey” stating that not only are the new standards “little changed from the original levels set by Congress 20 year ago, but also 99 percent of natural gas furnaces currently sold already meet the new minimum efficiency level.”

Pushing for regional standards as part of a compromise, ACEEE supported a 90 percent efficiency standard for the Northern states and an 80 percent standard for the Southern states. The DOE, however, rejected this compromise on legal grounds. Currently it does not have the authority to establish regional standards.

“The right furnace standard for Anchorage may not be the right one for Albuquerque,” said Steve Nadel, executive director of ACEEE. “Fortunately, Congress is ready to make sure DOE considers regional standards the next time it revises air conditioning or heating standards.”

Despite the criticism, DOE has determined that energy-efficiency standards for residential non-weatherized and weatherized gas furnaces, mobile home gas furnaces, oil-fired furnaces, and gas- and oil-fired boilers are technologically feasible, economically justified, and will result in significant conservation of energy as a result of increased efficiency.

According to the DOE, the total energy savings are estimated to result in cumulative greenhouse gas emission reductions of approximately 7.8 million tons of CO2 - an amount equal to the emissions produced by 2.6 percent of all light truck vehicles on U.S. roads in one year.

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Publication date:12/17/2007