The Department of Energy today released stronger new energy efficiency standards for central AC units, furnaces and heat pumps. The new rules adopt levels recommended by a coalition of manufacturing, consumer and environmental groups, including Earthjustice, filed with the department in 2009.
Reflecting the varying climates found across the U.S., the rules set up standards tailored to regional conditions. For example, the AC standards require the greatest efficiency improvements in units sold in warmer climates like Miami (40 percent less energy), while a new furnace in the North will have to use about 20 percent less energy than under the prior standards that were established in the late 1980s.
In a statement, Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, said:
Climates as different as those of Minneapolis and Miami need different furnace and AC standards. Until now, we’ve had one-size-fits-all national standards. These new, regional standards are a major breakthrough that will benefit consumers and the environment.
According to DOE analysis, the improved standards will save 156 billion kilowatt hours of electricity over 30 years, or enough to meet the total electricity needs of all households in Indiana for three years, while delivering net savings of more than $4.2 billion to American consumers. The new furnace standards will save 31 billion therms of natural gas, or enough natural gas over 32 years to heat all the homes in New York State for more than 11 years and save consumers $14.5 billion.
Of note is that a 2007 lawsuit challenging furnace standards adopted by the Bush administration resulted in the DOE taking a second look at furnaces. Without the lawsuit, brought by Eartjustice, NRDC and several states, the weak Bush DOEc furnace standard would have remained unless Congress acted.
The new furnace standards start in May 2013, and the new air conditioner and heat pumps standards take effect January 2015. The original national furnace standards took effect in 1992 and today’s rule is the first update.
Not only will these standards deliver big energy savings, they will reduce electricity demand, lower global warming carbon emissions and slash power plant emissions of mercury and nitrogen oxides.
As these standards show, energy efficiency is the common sense path toward curbing global warming emissions and ramping up our economy.