Understanding the Truth About the 80% Efficiency Furnace Phase Out

By: Brian Schutt  |  March 1, 2013

Like you, I’m inundated with mail. Because I know many of my competitors choose this form  of advertisement, I often look through to see what messages are being shouted at you. In a recent advertising mailer, 3 local HVAC firms decided to choose a seemingly indistinguishable message, that the government is making you replace your furnace. I’m not surprised these messages are out there, because frankly any time the government forces the phase out of a system or refrigerant, misinformation quickly becomes rampant.

90% Mandate Ads

Actual ads from heating and cooling companies in Indianapolis advertising mailer in February 2013.

If you’re one of the many homeowners confused and concerned that you have to replace your furnace, here’s the first bit of good news, you don’t have to do anything.

The rule change, which was enacted by the U.S. Department of Energy, states that as of May 1, 2013 all new gas furnaces installed in northern region states, which includes Indiana, must meet a minimum AFUE of 90%. Meaning, if you have to replace your system after May 1, you would no longer have an 80% efficient option. It does not mean that as of May 1, you would be in any violation for continuing to operate your furnace that’s less than 90%.


But wait…

However, and more importantly, in the process of reading through these rules and with the help of Congresswoman Susan Brooks’ office, I discovered that the aforementioned rule was “issued under a highly irregular practice called a “direct final rule” process where a rule becomes final unless they (DOE) receive comments that are determined to be sufficiently adverse as to warrant the withdraw of the rule. Normal procedures call for a comment period to happen ahead of the rule.”  As a result of the usage of this practice, and likely because of the adverse impact on its members (though this was the reason used), the American Public Gas Association (APGA) sued the DOE for using direct final rule in the context of this case.

Both proponents of the new standards and the APGA both issued statements in mid January, about the settlement on this issue. That settlement (which is still officially pending approval by courts) essentially causes the determination of appropriate standards to start from square one. As in, there doesn’t appear that there will be a Federal Government requirement to move to 90% AFUE furnaces by May 1 of this year, or for the foreseeable future. The DOE is taking comments as if the settlement is final, using the normal procedures for the adoption of a new rule.

If you have any further questions on this issue, please call us to discuss at 317-203-8149.


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