Table I.1 shows the new proposed standards by the DOE. These standards will apply to products manufactured for sale in the United States, or imported to the United States, on or after Nov. 19, 2015.

The U.S. Department of Energy has increased the energy efficiency standards for residential furnaces and boilers, but has left many wondering if they’re tough enough.

While the change in standards underscores the Department’s commitment to meeting its aggressive five-year appliance standard rulemaking schedule, a coalition of consumer, energy and environmental organizations have sharply criticized the DOE for “extraordinarily weak” standards that have changed little from the original levels set by Congress 20 years ago.

Table I.2 presents the current Federal minimum energy conservation standards for residential furnaces and boilers.

Those disappointed with the new standards find them “grossly inadequate.” “DOE has delivered a 'turkey' of an efficiency rule," reports Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

“A 90 percent natural gas furnace efficiency standard would provide more than 17 times the carbon savings," said David B. Goldstein, Energy Program Co-Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council in a statement.

The coalition also points out that 99 percent of natural gas furnaces currently sold already meet the new minimum efficiency level. “Our country cannot create a sustainable energy and climate future through incrementalism," stated Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy.

Table I.3 summarizes the implications of the new standards for consumers of residential furnaces and boilers. (All tables courtesy of  DOE)

This Final Rule of the DOE becomes effective Jan. 18, 2008, with a compliance date of Nov. 19, 2015. The Department estimates the new standards will save the equivalent of the total amount of energy consumed by 2.5 million American households in one year ― approximately 0.25 quadrillion (10x15) Btus of energy ― over a period of 24 years [from 2015–2038].

It seems the DOE itself acknowledges that higher standards could have been considered. But since this Final Rule for residential furnaces and boilers was issued under a consent decree schedule ― and time ran out ― the Department went forth and issued the Nov. 19 Final Rule.

DOE wanted to address natural gas price impacts as a result of the standards, but request for more time was denied. “DOE wished to more fully consider such potential impacts, prior to finalizing this Rule, and preliminarily believed that, if confirmed, would have merited consideration in evaluating higher efficiency standards for the products covered by this rulemaking,” said the DOE in its announcement.

However, there could be a “do-over” for residential boilers. Congress may override the new DOE standards with a multipart standard agreed to by manufacturers and efficiency groups last year. It contains the same efficiency ratings set by DOE, but doubles savings by disallowing standing pilots and requiring controls that cut energy use by up to 10 percent.