In the proposed rule, the details of which were first shared with CNN, non-weatherproof gas furnaces and furnaces used in mobile homes are expected to be significantly more energy efficient, reaching a standard annual fuel utilization efficiency of 95%. Just over 40% of the furnaces shipped today have a fuel consumption of 95% or more.
And unlike previous administrations’ proposed standards for furnaces, the Biden administration will propose a new national energy efficiency standard that applies to all sizes of home heating furnaces.
The proposed rule would effectively eliminate less efficient “non-condensing” furnaces, which waste excess gas, and mandate newer, more energy-efficient furnaces.
“By updating energy standards for many carbon-emitting appliances, such as home ovens, the Biden administration is working to save consumers money,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. in a press release.
The proposed rule would come into effect by 2029 at the earliest, according to the Department of Energy. On its launch date, it would require oven manufacturers to stop producing old, inefficient ovens and ban new imports of such ovens.
The rule would give retailers a transition period and not penalize homeowners who have an old furnace in their home.
“Americans have been forced to rely on outdated and unnecessary furnaces for quite a long time,” Joe Vukovich, an energy efficiency advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “Given that approximately half of homes in the United States rely on fossil fuels for space heating, this standard will significantly reduce energy bills each year and reduce dangerous global warming emissions across the country.”
The DOE’s proposed new rule comes after the agency removed a Trump rule that would have weakened standards for furnaces and water heaters. The Biden administration’s rule exceeds the Obama-era rule, which set the efficiency standard at 92%.
If it goes into effect, the department estimates it would reduce carbon emissions by 373 million metric tons and methane emissions by 5.1 million tons, over a 30-year period. The department also estimates significant savings for US consumers: $60 a year on their utility bills, totaling about $30.3 billion over three decades.
“AGA will carefully review all aspects of this proposed rule and if this is yet another attempt to bankrupt the natural gas industry, we will vigorously oppose it,” said Karen Harbert, President and CEO. of the leadership of the American Gas Association. “At a time when natural gas is imperative to the stability of our country and the world, imposing enormous costs on ordinary Americans is a mistake at best.”
The new rule comes as the Biden administration focuses more on energy-efficient heating. Last week, Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to accelerate domestic manufacturing of heat pumps, among other things, an action that will always require funding from Congress. Senior White House officials will meet with lawmakers this week to discuss two bills that would help fund heat pump manufacturing in the United States.
In addition to reducing global warming emissions, Granholm said in a statement that the new furnace measures “would bring enormous material benefits to American households in the form of cleaner air, modernized technology and cheaper energy”.
Residential heaters account for approximately 15% of annual home energy consumption in the United States.
While the new rule would be a big update to current standards, the United States lags behind some European countries that are taking bigger steps to phase out fossil fuel furnaces in response to the war of Russia versus Ukraine.
For example, the Austrian government recently agreed to phase out gas heaters in new buildings from next year, according to its climate minister, Leonore Gewessler. Austria is calling for all oil and coal heaters to be replaced with renewable energy heating by 2035, and all gas heaters to be replaced by 2040 – with government grants to help residents to transition their home heating systems.
This story has been updated with additional information and reactions.