Updated Gas Furnace Standards Will Deliver Large Benefits

Gas Furnace Energy Efficiency Standards: A Smart New Approach

NRDC Blog, September 17, 2015. Image credit: Borvan53

The Department of Energy (DOE) this week formally requested more input on analyzing a new approach to energy efficiency standards for natural gas furnaces, and although it’s been 25 years since they’ve been significantly updated, taking some additional time makes great sense.

The approach, which NRDC and other stakeholders proposed to DOE in July, would set standards that vary depending on a furnace’s heating capacity, with higher efficiency and higher total energy and cost savings for larger models, and lower efficiency and lower up-front cost for smaller models. DOE published an initial assessment this week, seeking further stakeholder input. It’s great to see DOE act so promptly to launch the formal process to assess the two-tier approach.

Updated furnace energy efficiency standards will deliver very large benefits to consumers and the environment based on “condensing” furnace technology that has emerged over the past couple decades, and unfortunately have been delayed for far too long. With over 40 million U.S. households using natural gas furnaces, and with heating accounting for about 40 percent of all residential energy use, it’s important to get the updated standards right.

DOE had previously proposed a single national 92 percent efficiency standard for household gas furnaces, which would mean 92 percent of the gas burned in the furnace is converted into useful heat. While a national 92 percent standard would deliver great overall consumer and environmental benefits, some households would not recoup their higher costs of more efficient equipment due to their lower than average heating needs (e.g., in relatively warm climates or in smaller homes) and, in some cases, higher installation costs due to particularly challenging building types.

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