Biden Administration Paves the Way for More Energy-Efficient Gas Furnaces, Water Heaters, Boilers

Contact: Ben Somberg, 202-658-8129, bsomberg@aceee.org

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The Biden administration paved the way today to set standards that significantly cut energy waste from major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in homes.

The Department of Energy (DOE) proposed to undo a rule issued by the previous administration that effectively blocked it from setting strong standards for gas furnaces, water heaters, and boilers in homes and commercial buildings.

“A lot of the furnaces and water heaters sold today still use old technology that wastes a lot of heat, which means higher bills and more greenhouse gases. This proposal paves the way for the department to finally ensure heating equipment isn’t needlessly sending a bunch of the heat up the chimney,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP).

DOE hasn’t significantly strengthened efficiency standards for home gas furnaces since Congress set them in 1987; it hasn’t updated home gas water heater standards since 2010 (DOE has missed legal deadlines for considering updating both). An ACEEE/ASAP report published in 2020 found that these products are two of the biggest opportunities for the Biden administration’s DOE to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through efficiency standards.

Strengthening standards for each type of equipment at issue in today’s rule could, by 2035, save households $3 billion annually on their gas utility bills and cut climate change emissions by an amount equal to the total emissions of more than two million typical U.S. homes today, according to the report.

The Trump administration’s January rule requires separate product classes for gas furnaces, water heaters, and boilers that fail to capture and use some of the heat that goes up the flue, known as non-condensing equipment. Legally separating these less-efficient models from their modern counterparts effectively blocks DOE from setting efficiency standards for each product at a level that requires all models to use the more efficient technology. The January rule was requested in a 2018 rulemaking petition to DOE from the American Gas Association, American Public Gas Association, National Propane Gas Association, Natural Gas Supply Association, and Spire, Inc.

The Biden administration would need to finalize today’s rule before it could propose individual strong standards for residential and commercial water heaters, furnaces, and boilers.