AGA Challenges Newly Released Department of Energy Furnace Rule

Washington, D.C. – The American Gas Association (AGA) joined other trade associations and one manufacturer in filing a legal challenge today to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) final rule establishing a new energy conservation standard for consumer furnaces. AGA has long supported improved building and appliance energy codes and standards that are technologically feasible, economically justified, and follow statutory requirements which this rule fails to do.

DOE’s final rule effectively bans the sale of non-condensing natural gas furnaces and affects 55 percent of U.S. households. DOE’s own data shows that 30 percent of senior-only households, 26 percent of low-income households and 27 percent of small business consumers will face higher costs as a result of the new regulation. For households with mobile home gas furnaces, 39 percent of consumers would be negatively affected by the proposed standard under DOE’s likely significantly underreported analysis.

“AGA has attempted to work with the Department of Energy to address the rule’s profound impacts on consumers and homeowners with a solutions-oriented approach to energy conservation that protects consumers and ensures continued availability of low-cost, low-emission natural gas furnaces. Unfortunately, our 114 pages of comments have been summarily ignored,” said AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert. “This ruling from DOE will push American families with natural gas heat into a corner – when their furnace goes out, they’ll be forced to choose between retrofitting for electric with the increased month-to-month utility bills that entails or engaging in a costly and time-consuming renovation to retrofit their home for a completely different type of natural gas furnace. Either way, American families and businesses will be saddled with increased costs with little environmental gain.”

DOE’s final rule makes conventional, non-condensing natural gas furnaces unavailable to consumers. These furnaces rely on an atmospheric venting system that largely uses chimneys to vent to the outside. Condensing furnaces rely on vastly different venting systems and are often difficult or impossible to substitute in place of the conventional, non-condensing model due to physical limitations, especially in older homes and low-income neighborhoods where homes cannot accommodate the venting and water hookup requirements of a condensing furnace. These consumers would be forced to switch to electric heating equipment, which can have higher emissions and increase monthly costs to homeowners thanks to electric costs that are 3.3 times more expensive than natural gas, according to DOE’s own numbers.

According to the most recent survey conducted by AGA in partnership with the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, natural gas utilities collectively spent almost $1.6 billion on energy efficiency programs in 2020; a 391 percent increase in spending compared to 2007. This spending resulted in total savings of at least 325 million therms of energy in 2020 alone. That’s 1.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of driving 4.6 billion miles.

Energy efficiency is also one of the many strategies in the pathways explored by AGA’s Net-Zero Emissions Opportunities for Gas Utilities report. The natural gas industry continues to lead in driving down emissions and paving the way for a cleaner energy future. According to the study, pathways that utilize natural gas and the vast utility delivery infrastructure offer opportunities to incorporate renewable and low-carbon gases, provide optionality for stakeholders, help minimize customer impacts, maintain high reliability, improve overall energy system resilience, and accelerate emissions reductions.

Learn more about AGA’s Net-Zero Emissions Opportunities for Gas Utilities study here.

See AGA’s fact sheet on DOE’s final furnace rule here.