DOE’s Weak Energy-Efficiency Proposal for Furnaces Short-Changes U.S. Consumers on Potential Money Savings
How Ironic during Energy Awareness Month
Washington, D.C., October 6, 2006 – The natural gas furnace energy-efficiency standards proposed today by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sacrifice significant potential energy and money savings that would benefit U.S. consumers and the nation’s economy and environment, the Alliance to Save Energy said. Making matters worse on the already much-delayed regulation, the standard would not take effect until 2015. DOE will issue final regulations following a 75-day public comment period.
DOE’s proposed rule would set the national standard for gas furnaces at 80 percent efficiency, a level already met by 98 percent of furnaces sold today and less strict than the standards already adopted by a number of states. By contrast, a 90 percent national efficiency standard would cut a typical consumer’s home energy bill by about 11 percent.
“This year U.S. consumers will spend about $2,100 on home energy, of which about a third will be for heating,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan. “Setting a weak efficiency standard for natural gas furnaces – the most common type of home heating equipment covered by the proposed regulations – unduly taxes household budgets already coping with home energy costs almost 25 percent higher than two years ago. We need up-to-date efficiency standards to help move the marketplace toward energy-efficient products and ‘lock in’ savings for the decades-long life of major equipment such as furnaces,” she added.
“Rather than leading by example, the federal government, with its weak proposed regulation, lags behind those states that have already enacted or are considering enacting their own more stringent energy-efficiency requirements for furnaces,” Callahan said. “The only ‘silver lining’ in this disappointing proposal is that it provides a ‘road map’ for cold-weather states to establish standards that are stricter than the federal standard.”
The proposed regs fail to address electricity use by furnaces, one of the biggest energy users in homes due to the circulating fans in furnaces; nor do they include a two-tier system, as recommended by a broad coalition of energy, consumer, and environmental groups, setting a stronger energy-efficiency standard for cold states that for warmer ones. Instead, DOE proposed a single national standard stating that itt lacks the authority to set regional standards.
The weakness of the proposed DOE standard means the average household in the Northeast will spend an extra $250 a year on home energy, according to Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), a nonprofit that promotes energy efficiency in that region. Over the next 15 years, NEEP said, the weak standard will mean extra energy costs of $1.6 billion annually for the region as a whole.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that a strong furnace standard set at 90 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency for the northern half of the country would save 1.7 billion therms (170 trillion Btu) per year when fully implemented, enough to heat about 3.1 million typical homes and to save consumers about $8 billion over about 20 years.