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High Costs, High Emissions: Why It's Time to Phase Out Energy-Wasting Furnaces

  • 1.  High Costs, High Emissions: Why It's Time to Phase Out Energy-Wasting Furnaces

    BPA Staff Member
    Posted 18 days ago
    Outdated, inefficient gas furnaces are generating high energy bills that burden lower-income households and emitting millions of tons of avoidable climate emissions and other pollutants that harm human health. In a soon-to-be-released proposed rule, the Department of Energy (DOE) will consider phasing out the least efficient models currently on the market.

    Heating is The Biggest Utility Cost for Most US Households 

    Nearly half of U.S. homes-about 50 million-are heated with a gas or propane furnace.1 Households with a basic (non-condensing) gas furnace face annual average heating bills of about $700.2 Those who live in older, draftier homes or in colder climates can have much higher bills. High heating bills can force a terrible choice between paying for heat and other necessities such as food and medicine.3 These bills particularly strain low-income households, which pay three times as much of their incomes on energy costs than non-low-income households and are disproportionately Black, Hispanic, and Native American.4 In 2022, rising residential gas prices are making this strain even worse.

    Burning fossil fuels in homes for space and water heating, cooking and other purposes is responsible for about 340 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.5 Upstream methane leaks throughout the gas supply chain can nearly double the annual greenhouse gas emissions' impact of gas fueled appliances.6 Gas appliances are also a significant source of NOx, which is precursor to particulate and ozone pollution. This pollution causes asthma attacks, cardiovascular disease, and even premature death-health problems especially prevalent in low-income communities.7 Gas heating appliances-primarily furnaces-account for about two-thirds of household gas use and related emissions.8

    Phasing Out Inefficient Furnaces Would Ease Costs and Reduce Emissions

    Manufacturers have developed and popularized substantially more efficient models – known as condensing furnaces – that capture and use more of the heat from the furnace's combustion chamber, reducing waste. A condensing furnace can cut gas use and heating bills by about 15%, or $100 per heating season on average.

    Many consumers have already made the switch, and about half of new purchases are now condensing models. But too many consumers end up with the least-efficient gas furnaces since that's often what a landlord or a builder chooses. For homeowners, replacing a broken furnace in the middle of winter often doesn't allow for time to consider more efficient options.

    By adopting improved, national efficiency standards that require all new furnaces sold to be energy efficient, DOE can ensure that all consumers benefit from this condensing technology. In a 2016 analysis, DOE found that the additional upfront cost of a more efficient furnace would be paid back well within the furnace's useful life. Of course, for renters and anyone else who does not pay the cost of a new furnace, the savings start the day that a new, more efficient furnace is fired up.

    A strong new standard would also eliminate millions of tons of climate change emissions and thousands of tons of NOx emissions, reducing pollution that harms human health.

    Continue reading on the eJournal

    Macie Melendez
    Editor in Chief, Building Performance eJournal
    Building Performance Association
    Moon Township PA