On a Fool’s Errand

March 12th, 2015 | Posted by Mike Weil in Home | Weil I've Got Your Attention

Weil I Have Your Attention“We’re from the government. We’re here to help.” So say the regulators from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) whose new energy efficiency proposal raises the minimum furnace efficiency to 92% AFUE applicable nationally.


The HVAC industry is once again beset with a government agency that seems to look for any excuse to regulate – all in the name of trying to help. Obviously all the main players in the HVAC Industry are unhappy by this turn of events – the leadership at the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA); and the Heating, Air-conditioning, Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) are curious about why the DOE has taken this path. Check out their concerns in this story in this week’s edition of The News. The general consensus is that regional efficiency standards were mostly agreed upon three years ago and today energy costs are at much lower levels – so why the required efficiency increase?

Is the U.S. Department of Energy on a fool's errand?

Is the U.S. Department of Energy on a fool’s errand?

I agree. Please tell us, DOE: what is the justification for this seemingly arbitrary change? Do you realize that if this becomes the rule, it in effect eliminates non-condensing furnaces from the world? Had you thought about or consulted with anyone with regard to stranded water heater exhaust in chimneys that can create serious and costly condensation issues? What about the need to exhaust these 92% furnaces through the wall and the potential for long flue pipe runs? Did you forget how super important 92% AFUE furnaces are to people living in Miami? Have you thought about the economic impact this will have on manufacturers, distributors, contractors, and ultimately homeowners?

I’m also wondering about the impact of such a national rule on utility incentive programs across the country. This proposed standard might just put an end to such programs. I suppose the good news is that if this were to happen, perhaps the utilities would refocus their efforts on building performance.

The best news is that we all have 90 days to comment on this new rule-making proposal and all the trade associations are currently studying the documents and preparing to ask the DOE these and many more tough questions. But that isn’t enough. As an industry we need to stand together and make sure government agencies like DOE aren’t on a fool’s errand to over-regulate and hurt our businesses, our industry, and perhaps, our economy — all under the umbrella of “good intentions.”

Obviously the environmental groups are all on board with the DOE proposal: the common thread is that it’s good for the environment and will save consumers millions of dollars. Could somebody please explain how this works? To me it seems that this proposal will INCREASE costs to consumers and push them to spend their money on repairing older more inefficient equipment. Worse, it doesn’t address the issue of how the systems perform – we all know that efficiency ratings are based on controlled laboratory environments and don’t reflect real conditions inside residential and light commercial buildings.

The good news in all this is that such a ruling could make things easier for performance-based contractors who could convince consumers to spend their dollars on making sure existing systems are delivering the exact BTUs to conditioned spaces instead of changing out boxes. But then what? What will stop government agencies from looking into regulating ductwork and air flow in the future?

Standing together means speaking with a unified voice. The associations are already on this path. Now the grass roots part of the industry needs to get involved. How? The DOE is holding a meeting on March 27th that is being broadcast as a webinar. Anyone can register and attend this webinar. You should do it. Go to http://bit.ly.DOEMeeting to register and be sure to attend. You can also read the proposed rule itself and post comments at http://bit.ly/ResFurnaceRule.

If you’d like to learn more about performance-based service, visit our website at http://www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com.

Let’s not let the DOE or any other agency over-regulate our industry.

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