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Biden administration updates furnace efficiency standards for first time in 16 years

The Energy Department issued its final efficiency rules for residential furnaces on Friday, which it projects will save Americans over $1.5 billion in heating expenses per year.

The updated standards are set to take effect by the end of 2028.

In November 2020, the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Trump administration over missing a number of federal deadlines for new efficiency rules, which the department settled in 2022 under the Biden administration. The final rule comes a day before the Sept. 30 deadline imposed under the settlement.

The rule marks the first update to furnace efficiency standards since 2007. Under the update rule, residential gas-powered furnaces — the source of about 19 percent of annual home energy use in the U.S. — will provide at least 95 percent fuel efficiency, converting almost all the gas they consume into heat, according to officials.

The department projected the updated rule will result in 332 million fewer metric tons of carbon emissions and 4.3 million tons of methane emissions. 

“At the direction of Congress, DOE is continuing to review and finalize energy standards for household appliances, such as residential furnaces, to lower costs for working families by reducing energy use and slashing harmful pollutants in homes across the nation,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. 

“Today’s measure, along with this Administration’s past and planned energy efficiency actions, underscores President Biden’s commitment to save Americans money and deliver healthier communities,” Granholm added.

Heating comprises most U.S. households’ largest single utility expense, costing an average of just under $700 for households with a non-condensing gas model. Gas or propane furnaces are used in about 50 million homes, or nearly half in the U.S., according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, a pro-energy efficiency group.

Gas-powered appliances are also a major source of the pollutants that become particulate and ozone pollution.

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