May 1 Furnace Rule Likely to Be Vacated by DOE
Jan 18, 2013
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Some regional furnace standards, scheduled to take effect in the United States on May 1 of this year, are now likely to be nullified by U.S. courts, under terms of a final settlement agreement between the Department of Energy (DOE) and the American Public Gas Association (APGA) submitted to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 11, 2013.

The agreement would vacate the Direct Final Rule issued in June 2011 as it relates to energy conservation standards for non-weatherized gas furnaces, including standby and off-mode energy consumption.

The settlement, more specifically:
* vacates the Northern region's minimum 90% AFUE standards for residential non-weatherized and mobile home gas furnaces
* vacates the Southeastern and Southwestern regions' 80% AFUE standards for residential non-weatherized and mobile home gas furnaces

It also vacates the May 1, 2013, compliance date.

The agreement would also call for DOE to restart rulemaking for residential furnaces efficiency standards.

The settlement agreement, if accepted by the courts, eliminates the May 1, 2013, effective date for compliance with the Direct Final Rule as it applies to non-weatherized gas furnaces.

Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) President and CEO Stephen Yurek said AHRI member companies will now prepare to implement those parts of the agreement that survived the lawsuit.

"While we are disappointed that our consensus agreement, on which our members and staff worked so hard and on which the Direct Final Rule is based, will not be implemented in its entirety, we understand why the two principal parties of the lawsuit reached a settlement agreement," Yurek said.

Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) was a part of the suit brought by the American Public Gas Association. APGA brought the suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

"Our comments during the rulemaking process outlining the additional costs to homeowners to properly address venting and condensate installation requirements of condensing furnaces were ignored," said Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA president and CEO. "This settlement would restart the rulemaking for furnaces and allow ACCA to participate further in the process and for the DOE to recognize the problems associated with requiring condensing furnaces in the Northern region."

If the settlement is accepted by the courts, non-condensing furnaces would remain legal to install in all U.S. states. This helps settle uncertainty about stranded inventory in the Northern region ahead of the May 1 deadline.

The portions of the Direct Final Rule setting new minimum energy efficiency standards for central air-conditioners and heat pumps, including any regional standards, remain in place, along with the Jan. 1, 2015, compliance date.

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