Hold onto your heat and air conditioning system: New federal standards for gas furnaces could be on the way. The likely result of updated regulations would be that consumers would pay more for new gas furnace equipment, but could make up the extra cost in fuel savings over time. Currently, the Department of Energy is soliciting input on the proposed move from consumers and industry stakeholders. Read on to learn more about the standards and what pundits are saying about them.

Taking Efficiency Comments Now

The federal standards are authorized by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, which charges the Energy Department with reviewing the regulations periodically and deciding if there is an opportunity to save a significant amount of money with new rules that are both technologically and economically feasible.

So far, the DOE has completed an initial analysis of the proposed plan and is still seeking input from the public, manufacturers and industry groups to inform the agency about the best path forward, before the government is expected to make a final decision about the gas standards in December 2015. Existing furnaces would be grandfathered into compliance; the updated rules would only apply to new heat and air conditioning equipment manufactured after the regulations are enacted.

How Much Savings Will You See

Under the DOE's analysis, new gas furnaces compliant with the proposed federal regulations would cost $494 more than comparable current models, but save consumers an average of $636 over time in reduced operating costs. Of course, any predictions about future prices are provisional at best, especially when it comes to the cost of natural gas, which has historically been known to fluctuate. Some analysts are questioning the DOE figure, claiming that it paints too optimistic a picture of how much homeowners actually stand to save.

An editorial in The Hill challenges the government's numbers. “If it is rational and highly beneficial for consumers to purchase a more efficient furnace model, why would they need to be forced into this decision through a federal regulatory standard?” the piece states, noting that savings from federal efficiency programs have fallen short of predictions in the past. The American Public Gas Association has also weighed in against the switch, claiming that higher initial costs will actually be counter-productive and incentivize people to purchase less efficient heat and air conditioning appliances.

On the other hand, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy spoke out in favor of new standards, stating “now is a lousy time to go backwards on simple steps like improved home heating energy efficiency,” while Energy Vanguard called the protracted process of creating and approving what they see as common-sense new regulations a “sad joke.”

Keeping a Wise Eye on the Market

Fortunately, as long as your old furnace is working well, there's no need to run out and purchase a new one regardless of how the numbers actually shake out in the real world. In any case, the new standards might not actually take effect until 2020, so you have plenty of time to prepare.

If you need any repairs or maintenance for your gas furnace, contact an expert heat and air conditioning technician today.