U.S. DOE Heats Up New Energy Standards for Home Furnaces

Court Grants Obama Administration Request to Reconsider Weak Bush-era Standard

Washington, DC, (April 23, 2009) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted the Obama Administration’s request to reconsider weak efficiency standards of residential furnaces, one of the home’s biggest users of energy. The case was brought to the U.S. DOE by several states, and consumer and environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.

During the Bush Administration, U.S. DOE set standards at 80 percent efficiency, a level already met by virtually all furnaces currently sold. Now, the Obama Administration is committing to consider new standards of at least 90 percent. A furnace with 90 percent efficiency would save consumers about 11 percent off of their home heating bills.

A stronger standard for residential furnaces would also save at least enough gas to heat four out of every five U.S. homes for one year, net about $11 billion in consumer savings and cut global warming pollution by the amount emitted by 25 million cars in a year.

Following are the statements from some of the plaintiffs and energy-efficiency advocacy organizations:

“The Bush Administration ignored the science and the law in establishing weak standards.” said Anjali Jaiswal, Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Residential furnaces are the home’s biggest users of natural gas. We’re encouraged that Sec. Chu is taking quick action to establish stronger efficiency standards for furnaces that will lower heating bills, reduce global warming pollution, reduce natural gas prices for everyone, and increase America’s energy security.”

“Secretary Chu’s decision to voluntarily reconsider the 2007 furnace standards is a huge step in the right direction for the Department of Energy,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “It helps show that the agency in charge of U.S. energy policy is serious about finding ways to use American energy resources as efficiently as possible.”

“During the campaign, President Obama committed to ‘make America the most energy-efficient country in the world.’” said Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “Secretary Chu’s decision to re-do the weak Bush-era furnace standard is an excellent start. Since furnaces use more natural gas than any other appliance, stronger standards will deliver big benefits for consumers, the environment and the nation.”

"It's great news for low-income consumers that DOE will reconsider the very weak furnace efficiency standard,” said Charles Harak, attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, a participant in the lawsuit. “Poorer families often rent, rather than own, and depend on strong federal standards to make sure their landlords provide furnaces that don't waste energy, sending money up the chimney."

“We’re glad to see that the Obama administration recognizes the multi-pronged benefits of strong efficiency standards,” said Tim Ballo, an Earthjustice attorney involved in the case. “A revised standard can save billions while preventing the emission of more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide. This saves consumers money and curbs global warming pollution, a necessary and logical solution to the economic and environmental crisis.”