Biden Admin Targets a New Household Appliance

In the following months, the Biden Administration could implement regulations on gas-powered residential furnaces, making it more difficult for consumers to buy models that do not comply with the administration’s greenhouse gas emissions goals.

The Department of Energy (DOE) proposed new restrictions in June 2022 that would likely reduce customers’ freedom of choice, raise prices, and have a minimal impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Over 50% of all American homes use gas furnaces for space heating, and the agency may soon complete the rules governing these appliances.

Rules affecting dozens more appliances, like pool pumps, battery chargers, ceiling fans, and dehumidifiers, are being moved forward by the Biden Administration per the current federal Unified Agenda, a government-wide, semiannual set of regulations that agencies plan to submit or finalize within the next 12 months.

Manufacturers would be prohibited from selling furnaces that don’t convert at least 95% of fuel into heat within the next six years under the proposed restrictions, which would be in effect beginning in 2029. 

A home furnace’s minimum acceptable annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) is now 80%.

Due to the strict AFUE requirements, non-condensing gas furnaces, which are less efficient but less expensive, would predominantly be removed from the market. However, consumers who opt to upgrade to condensing furnaces from non-condensing models after the legislation goes into effect would face high installation expenses.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm stated that the proposed revisions are part of the Biden Administration’s effort to save consumers money by upgrading energy requirements for various carbon-emitting appliances, such as home furnaces.

Granholm also noted that American families would benefit from these efficiency measures, including cleaner air, more advanced technology, and lower energy costs.

Controversy Over Gas Appliances

While the gas appliance argument rages on, environmentalists have proposed several solutions to speed up the process of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, including electrification, restricting natural gas hookups, and introducing stringent energy efficiency standards.

Experts testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability on May 24 about the issues with the government’s gas stove tests, with some suggesting that the Department of Energy’s forthcoming appliance regulations may be unconstitutional.

At the hearing, American Gas Association’s Chief Regulatory Counsel for Energy, Matthew Agen, testified that consumers would save a measly $1.51 per year on gas cooktops based on the DOE’s estimate.

Agen further claimed that the regulation might make gas cooktops unavailable on the market, violating the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). Agen also contended that the Biden Administration was prejudiced against gas stoves in favor of electric ones.

According to Agen, high-input rate burners are often found in gas cooktops. Still, the results have been skewed because testers utilized varying water volumes.

According to Agen, the DOE is also attempting to restrict access to gas appliances in other ways outside the Proposed Cooking Products Rule. The Department of Energy (DOE) is considering new regulations that exclude natural gas furnaces from the market and raise consumer prices.

Kenny Stein, Vice President for Policy at the Institute for Energy Research, testified at the same hearing and argued that the DOE had broken the EPCA by misrepresenting their findings and failing to demonstrate that their proposed regulation on gas stoves would result in significant energy savings.

House Divided

It is reported that Republicans in the House are using efforts to control the administrative state by regulating appliances as a scapegoat.

Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) made this point during a hearing on the rules of procedure on June 5. Cole argued that the Constitution clarifies that Congress is responsible for making laws.

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) disagreed, saying that Republican efforts to roll back the Biden Administration’s appliance regulations, among other things, show that the Republican majority once again puts the right-wing culture wars ahead of the needs of the American people.

Two of the four measures brought before the committee dealt with gas appliance rules.

By law, the Consumer Product Safety Commission cannot ban or significantly increase the price of gas stoves, thanks to the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act. The Department of Energy has proposed an energy efficiency rule for gas stoves. However, the Save Our Stoves Act would prevent the law from being implemented.

New York’s gas stove ban was enacted in the state budget passed in May. However, in April, the Ninth Circuit attempted to reject a similar restriction on gas stoves in new buildings in Berkeley, California, saying the choice should be left to the federal government.

The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to the request for comment.