Do you know when the U.S. last raised furnace efficiency standards? It was 1987. Do you know how long the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been trying to change that? At least since 2007.
The past eight years have been a sad case of industry heavyweights preventing progress on this important issue. The DOE, however, just proposed a new rule, so we might finally see some action here. Do you know when it’s set to go into effect, if passed?
A bit of furnace efficiency history
In 1987, the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act set a minimum of 78% Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). That’s when furnaces with standing pilot lights went away.
In 2007, the DOE proposed raising the minimum from 78 to 80 AFUE. What?! Yes, it’s true. They really did that, even though the rule would have had pretty much zero effect on saving energy.
Why? Because even though 78 AFUE was the minimum allowed, nearly every furnace being made is 80 AFUE or higher. I think I’ve seen only one new furnace that had an AFUE lower than 80.
So the battle began. The state of California and a coalition of environmental and energy efficiency groups sued the DOE. That led to a set of regional standards, whereby Northern states (those with more than 5,000 heating degree days) would have had to go to 90 AFUE and the warmer South and Southwest would get to stick with 80 AFUE.
And that’s when the American Public Gas Association (APGA) blew up. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the APGA “argued that consumers would flock to electric resistance furnaces rather than install high-efficiency gas furnaces.” (See their article, Why DOE’s Cave on Furnace Standards Is Such a Big Deal.)
There’s no way they really thought that would…