Gas utility companies say a new Department of Energy rule requiring high-efficiency furnaces for homes in 30 Northern states can cause hardship for homeowners. Gas firms say the rule, which goes into effect nationally in May 2013, could force some homeowners to seek cheaper heating systems, such as electric or kerosene, according to the Philadelphia Inquire
The Energy Department and the law’s supporters say homeowners will save money in the long run, and the high-efficiency furnaces will be good for the environment.
However, Bert Kalisch, president and chief executive officer of the American Public Gas Association (APGA), says people who are living paycheck to paycheck may not be as interested in long-term savings, but need to save money now.
“One does not have to be a proponent of the Occupy Wall Street movement to understand that poverty . . . is a growing problem in this country and that the lower-income portion of our population is having trouble making ends meet," Kalisch said.
High-efficiency furnaces not only cost more, but require direct-vending, which could cause problems in cities like Philadelphia where many people live in the city’s traditional row houses.
Owners wouldn’t be able to vent the devices onto a sidewalk or beneath a window, Philadelphia Gas Works said, so they must do so through chimneys, requiring the installation of expensive liners and mechanical exhausts.
APGA, whose largest member is Philadelphia Gas Works, sued the Energy Department in December to block the new rule.
The Natural Resources Defense Council supports the new law, saying the standards "will result in significant energy and consumer savings and resultant emissions reductions.”
While the council admits some homeowners might encounter high up-front costs, but the Energy department is working on a provision to allow some homeowners to plead hardship and install less-costly, older models.
The new rules are part of a broader package that also involves stricter standards for air conditioners and heat pumps in Southern states.
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