The first part of 2013 has been a pretty confusing time for both homeowners and HVAC contractors when it comes to the Department of Energy's furnace efficiency regulations. After numerous court battles, a settlement, and pending court challenges of the settlement, things are still very much up in the air.
What We Do Know
As we all wait for the results of the pending litigation, the Department of Energy has announced that they will be acting "in a manner consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement with regard to the enforcement of the standards." This means that the DOE will not be enforcing the original rules prohibiting the installation of furnaces below 90% AFUE after May 1st. Until a final court decision on the settlement is handed down, licensed HVAC contractors are allowed to install gas furnaces down to 80% AFUE.
For many homeowners, installing a high efficiency furnace still makes a lot of sense as the higher efficiency can save them a lot of money on heating bills. However, for some applications, installing an 80% furnace makes more sense. For the time being, this option will continue to be open.
What We Don't Know
Because of the pending court challenge to the DOE's settlement agreement, we don't know if or when the DOE will require all installed furnaces to be 90% AFUE or above. In the mean time, it's "business as usual" for HVAC contractors and homeowners.
Here is a link to ACCA's blog article on the subject: