On Friday, the US Department of Energy (DOE) released a revised proposal for home furnace minimum energy efficiency standards, the latest step in a long-running docket to update the original standards which took effect in 1992 and have been largely unchanged since then. Under today's Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNOPR), most new furnaces would reach an efficiency of at least 92%. The big difference between today's proposal and the original proposal issued last year is that DOE has created a class of small furnaces and proposed to leave the standard unchanged at 80% efficiency for these products. ASAP and ACEEE along with several manufacturers, utilities, and consumer groups endorsed the concept of a separate class for small furnaces.
The size break chosen by DOE in today's proposal for delineating small furnaces, an input capacity of 55,000 Btu per hour or less, combined with the proposed 92% efficiency level for the rest of the market would result in new furnace standards which deliver very large energy and consumer pocketbook savings. But, DOE could further boost savings by increasing the efficiency standard for larger furnaces to 95%.
DOE's original proposal, issued in March 2015, would have required all new furnaces to meet or exceed a 92% efficiency standard. Today's revised proposal is designed to exclude small furnaces that are often employed in warm climates, small homes, or very efficient homes. Furnace size is often correlated with annual heating energy use; therefore, the economics of high efficiency furnaces tend to be more positive the larger the furnace. According to DOE, about 85% of households are expected to install a furnace with an input capacity greater than 55,000 Btu per hour or greater...
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