U.S. Increases Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential Furnaces & Boilers

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it has increased the energy efficiency standards for residential furnaces and boilers, underscoring the Department’s commitment to meet its aggressive, five-year appliance standard rulemaking schedule, as established in its January 31, 2006, Report to Congress. 

The Department 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, or approximately 0.25 quadrillion (10x15) British thermal units (Btus) of energy, over a period of 24 years [from 2015–2038].

“As a nation, we must find better and more ways to both conserve energy and use it more efficiently and productively.  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,” DOE Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner said.  “Improving appliance standards is a top priority of the Department of Energy, and in the coming years, we intend to maintain and, where possible, accelerate the extraordinary progress we have made over the last two years.”

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.  The total energy savings are estimated to result in cumulative greenhouse gas emission reductions of approximately 7.8 million tons (Mt) of carbon dioxide – an amount equal to the emissions produced by 2.6 percent of all light truck vehicles on U.S. roads in one year.  The amended standards can be found in the Federal Register, as of November 19, 2007.

This Final Rule for residential furnaces and boilers was issued under a consent decree schedule entered in State of New York v. Bodman.  DOE sought to modify the schedule in order to more fully review comments received on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  Comments indicated the feasibility and desirability of addressing natural gas price impacts as a result of the standards at issue in this rulemaking.  DOE wished to more fully consider such potential impacts, prior to finalizing this Rule, and preliminarily believed that, if confirmed, would have merited consideration in evaluating higher efficiency standards for the products covered by this rulemaking.  DOE’s motion to modify the consent decree was denied and therefore, DOE is issuing today’s Final Rule.

In January 2006, the Department released its plan to eliminate a 30-year backlog on appliance standards, and implement new standards for 18 appliances over the next five years.  In nearly two years, DOE has already adopted standards for two products, completed several other rulemakings and begun ten standard-setting rulemakings – a pace unprecedented in DOE’s history.  The Department has also requested a 14 percent funding increase for fiscal year 2008 over fiscal year 2007 to streamline and better manage the process, and has assigned more staff to help speed this work.

In February 2007, DOE asked Congress for fast track rulemaking authority to allow the Department to accelerate the rulemaking process where consensus among stakeholders and industry already exists; this would eliminate approximately ten months from the timeline for each consensus rule, usually a three-year process (see February 26, 2007 news release).  DOE has also implemented process improvements such as “bundling” rulemaking for products, to move similar products through as a group.

As part of the Administration’s broader strategy to increase energy efficiency, the Department also encourages consumers to purchase ENERGY STAR® products, which are designed to use less energy, save money and protect the environment.  ENERGY STAR® is a joint program of the DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975 established an energy conservation program for major household appliances.  The National Energy Conservation Policy Act of 1978 amended EPCA (to add Part B of Title III), which established an energy conservation program for consumer products other than automobiles.

The Department of Energy establishes federal standards to keep consistent, national energy efficiency requirements that are both technically feasible and economically justified for selected appliances and equipment.  The Appliances and Commercial Equipment Standards Program is part of DOE’s Building Technologies Program, and has responsibility for managing testing procedures and minimum efficiency standards for residential products and commercial equipment.

Learn more information on DOE’s five-year rulemaking schedule and the Appliances and Commercial Equipment Standards Program.


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