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Furnace Efficiency Law: Are Massachusetts Homeowners Forced to Upgrade to a 90%+ Efficiency Furnace?

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Furnace Efficiency Law: Are Massachusetts Homeowners Forced to Upgrade to a 90%+ Efficiency Furnace?
Looking for a new gas furnace? Several months ago, you might have been told by a heating contractor that your only choice was to install a more expensive 90% or higher efficiency furnace.

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However, that’s no longer the case. Contractors can still sell and install furnaces with a minimum 80% AFUE rating. Considering that these furnaces are less expensive, this is good news for homeowners who don’t want to spend extra for more efficiency.

We wanted to revisit this subject so Massachusetts homeowners know exactly what their gas furnace options are as they look for new furnaces this fall.

The 90% furnace standard will NOT be enforced

On May 1, 2013 the U.S department of Energy (DOE) was going to officially enforce a new furnace efficiency standard. That standard would require contractors in 30 northern states (including Massachusetts) to only sell and install furnaces with an AFUE efficiency of 90% or more.

However, on April 5, 2013, DOE made a statement that the standard would not be enforced. That means the law is technically “on the books” but, according to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), “contractors may continue to install non-condensing residential natural gas furnaces (i.e., those with an AFUE less than 90%) without consequence to themselves or their customers.”

Why the 90% furnace efficiency standard will not be enforced

The standard’s intention was to help reduce global warming emissions and help homeowners save money on their energy bills, according to the American Council for Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE).

However, the American Public Gas Association (APGA) brought forth a lawsuit against the DOE rule. According to the APGA, “the Furnace Rule, although intended to increase efficiency, would have undermined energy efficiency goals and increased costs to consumers.”

They go on to say that, because 90% and above gas furnaces are more expensive to buy and install, homeowners would be pressured to install less efficient electric furnaces.

A proposed settlement agreement was made between the DOE and APGA saying that the DOE would rescind the Furnace standard rules and restart the process of writing them.

Heating contractors were not trying to trick you

As you can see, this back and forth about the standards could lead to some misunderstandings between homeowners and heating contractors.

Being told that you had to had to upgrade to at least 90% furnace by one contractor, but being told by another at a later date that you don’t looks fishy. But now you know it’s the back and forth of this furnace standard that’s the cause of the change of advice—not contractor trickery.

To see if you should install an 80% or a 90% rated furnace, contact Nicholson Heating and Air for help.

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