28 October 2011 -
On June 27th, DOE issued a Direct Final Rule (DFR) that, among other things, increases the federal minimum efficiency for natural gas furnaces from 78% nationwide to 80% AFUE in Southern U. S. states and 90% AFUE in the North. As outlined in that DOE Notice, unless DOE received comments judged as presenting “adverse” consequences from the DFR by October 17, 2011, the DFR rule and its minimum efficiencies will stand as the new efficiency standards on October 24, 2011.
Unfortunately, we have been informed that DOE has rejected the large amount of adverse comments, not only from energy suppliers but also from installers and distributors, and will be issuing a “Notice of Effective Date and Compliance Date” for the DFR.
AGA and a number of member companies submitted extensive comments in opposition of DOE going ahead with the DFR. While AGA has supported since 2006 a nationwide 80% AFUE standard since it is cost effective to consumers, AGA has opposed implementation of a 90% AFUE standard in the North. This opposition has been expressed in letters from previous AGA President, David N. Parker to the Secretary of Energy and Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy prior to DOE’s issuance of the direct final rule.
In addition, because of the complex nature of the issue, AGA had also strongly urged DOE not to use its DFR rule authority for these products but to use the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) process to permit a more complete and transparent way to review the issues related to furnace minimum efficiency standards. AGA’s greatest concern is that the higher Northern minimum efficiency requirement for residential furnaces effectively bans an efficient natural gas end use product and imposes prohibitive replacement installation costs for many existing furnace systems with 90% AFUE units.
AGA staff is reviewing the DOE notice and will assess what options are available to possibly obtain relief from the DFR.