A Free-Market Energy Blog

Waste? Speak for Yourself (energy appliance mandates anti-consumer, pro-bureaucrat)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- November 11, 2020

“Consumers decide what is prudent with their appliance purchases, not Washington, DC energy planners.”

The energy-efficiency nannies start with smiles and studies about how consumers fail in their purchase and usage decisions–and end by mandating a lower standard of living for the rest of us.

No, we do not want low-volume showers; we want choice between low-volume and high-volume options. We do not want electric heaters rather than gas heaters–we want the option between both with choices on up-front costs versus back-end efficiencies. We also do not want low-flush toilets. We want what we want without experts-qua-planners involved.

Enter the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which describes itself as

a catalyst to advance energy efficiency politics, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. We aim to build a vibrant and equitable economy – one that uses energy more productively, reduces costs, protects the environment, and promotes the health, safety, and well-being of everyone.

Trying to be all-good-things via government mandates is the opposite of letting rival appliance makers develop technology and deciding what consumers naturally want. It is fallacious to believe that physical efficiency translates into economic efficiency as demonstrated by consumer choice. It is central-planning-folly to believe that technical studies and policy reports can provide unambiguous answers to override market entrepreneurship.

Andrew deLaski is a nanny making good money as the executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). He is one of many full-time analysts leading a political charge against the pro-consumer, anti-bureaucratic relaxation of furnace and water heater regulations.

Here is what deLaski wrote this September. Ask yourself as you read this: are consumers (you and I) dumb? Can we be trusted to know when we need to buy a new appliance to replace what we have (a sunk cost)? Are we irrational when choosing between new models that trade off between up-front cost and back-end usage?

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) moved one step closer today to blocking a future administration from cutting the amount of natural gas wasted by furnaces and water heaters.

Two of the biggest energy needs in most buildings are heating the air and heating the water. According to DOE, they together account for 62% of all energy use in the average home. Many homes and buildings use gas furnaces (or boilers) and water heaters. While upgrading to electric heat pumps is often the best answer for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring that newly installed gas-fired equipment is far more efficient is also critical.

Today, most gas-fired water heaters and about half the gas-fired furnaces and boilers sold allow a significant amount of heat to go up the flue, wasted. Some models, however, capture a portion of that heat and use it, employing what’s known as “condensing” technology. DOE’s action today is aimed to guarantee that the models that needlessly waste that heat remain on the market for years to come.

DOE hasn’t significantly strengthened efficiency standards for home gas furnaces since 1992. Home water heater standards, last updated in 2010, are also among the many overdue for review. When DOE finally updates standards for furnaces and water heaters, to avoid wasted energy and excess climate change emissions, it will be vital that it set the efficiency bar at the levels of models that use condensing technology.

Gas suppliers, however, prefer otherwise. In 2018, the American Gas Association, American Public Gas Association, Natural Gas Supply Association, National Propane Gas Association, and Spire, Inc. formally petitioned the Department, asking it to define condensing and non-condensing equipment as separate categories with separate standards. That would, in effect, make it impossible to subsequently create a standard that requires models to extract heat that would otherwise go up the flue.

In 2019, the Department proposed to essentially follow the petitioners’ request (ASAP, ACEEE and several allies detailed our opposition to the plan in comments last year). Today, DOE published a supplemental proposal refining the idea and even making it slightly worse. It would go beyond the earlier proposal to expand restrictions on future standards by putting intermediate efficiency levels that are short of condensing performance off limits as well, mandating the availability of low-efficiency, atmospherically vented products. DOE is now one step closer to finalizing this rule.

At stake here are big costs for homeowners, businesses, and our climate if the rule prevents or slows a future administration from ensuring that furnaces, water heaters, and boilers are significantly more efficient. Although a new administration could reverse this rule, that will take time.

DOE previously calculated that an efficiency standard for home furnaces based at least in part on condensing technology would save an average household between $500 and $750 over the lifetime of the equipment, when factoring in both the initial purchase and installation prices and the reduced gas bills. And it found that, over 30 years of sales, these more-efficient furnaces would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 275 million metric tons. That’s equivalent to the emissions from 70 coal power plants running for one year.

If you counted all home and commercial furnaces, water heaters, and boilers at stake, the impacts would be even bigger.

Inefficient furnaces, boilers and water heaters should soon be a relic of the past. Today, we’re one step closer to being stuck with gas-wasting models for years or decades to come.


“At stake here are big costs for homeowners, businesses, and our climate” is just words-on-paper versus what consumers and industry, one by one, want. “Being stuck with gas-wasting models for years or decades to come” is, again, just words-on-paper. Consumers decide what is prudent with their appliance purchases, not Washington, DC energy planners.

One Comment for “Waste? Speak for Yourself (energy appliance mandates anti-consumer, pro-bureaucrat)”

  1. Mark Krebs  

    Rob wrote:

    Andrew deLaski is a nanny making good money as the executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP).

    There is lots more to it. Click on the ASAPlink then “About Us” tab and read down to “The Longer History” (https://appliance-standards.org/mission-and-history) which reads:

    ASAP was founded in 1999 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Alliance to Save Energy, the Energy Foundation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The founding organizations had been involved in appliance standards work for many years but recognized that a broader, more organized advocacy effort would more consistently yield better standards. They founded ASAP to spearhead this effort.

    ACEEE/deLaski (et. al) are closely aligned with DOE/EERE: https://blog.energytrust.org/founding-executive-director-named-2016-champion-energy-efficiency/. Andrew also headed the DOE/EERE Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee (ASRAC) for years.

    EERE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) is directed by David Nemtzow. David used to head the Alliance to Save Energy; one of the founders of ASAP as shown above. EERE’s “award winning” John Cymbalsky, also as shown above, reports to Nemtzow.

    Daniel Simmons, Alex Fitzsimmons and David Nemtzow will be heading a conference November 16 – 18 to advocate for “clean energy” programs; which increasingly feature electrification. Register and go to the agenda to see for yourself:

    But I don’t hate the players; just the game. And for the record, the Trump Administration did very little to curb the game. This is evidenced by the fact the EERE mission statement and strategic plan never changed from the previous (Obama) Administration. But I don’t blame Trump. He just vastly underestimated the breadth and depth of the “swamp” and got precious little help “pulling the plug.”


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