Feds To Regulate Fake Fireplaces To Stop Global Warming

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Better go out and buy a gas fireplace and stove soon before federal regulations make them more expensive. Federal officials are looking to regulate the energy usage of fake fireplaces as part of the Obama administration’s effort to fight global warming.

The Energy Department has proposed new regulations that would mandate that “gas-fired hearth products” like decorative fireplaces and stoves be more energy efficient and produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions. DOE says its rule would save $165 over the lifespan of the average hearth and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11.1 million metric tons through 2030.

The major change DOE demands is the end of continuously burning pilot lights that make it so fireplaces and stoves can be used at a moment’s notice. Instead, the DOE is mandating the use of electric ignition systems to save energy and fight global warming.

The DOE also notes that the price of gas hearths will likely go up because of its mandate. For example, smaller hearth producers could see the costs of making an outdoor hearth increase by $65 per unit. The cost of a vented indoor hearth could increase by $31 per unit because of the electronic ignition system.

DOE notes that the added costs per unit will decrease with higher production levels. The department says that the rule could add $61 million per year in increased compliance costs to the hearth industry, but would yield “186 million per year in reduced equipment operating costs, $67 million per year in CO2 reductions, and $7.0 million per year in reduced NOX emissions.”

“In this case, the net benefit would amount to $199 million per year,” according to the DOE’s regulatory analysis of the proposed hearth rule.

President Obama pledged in 2013 to make global warming a major priority during his last term in office, quickly ordering that carbon dioxide emissions from power plants be reduced, and that agencies regulate methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations.

A less noticed Obama strategy is to regulate the energy efficiency of everyday appliances and equipment. In 2014, the DOE began updating energy efficiency standards for everyday products. Regulators recently finalized standards for fluorescent lamps and ice machines.

“As part of President Obama’s climate action plan, the Energy Department set an ambitious goal of finalizing 10 energy efficiency standards this year, and with the new efficiency standards for general service fluorescent lamps and automatic commercial ice makers, we have reached that goal,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

While the DOE’s energy efficiency regulations have largely escaped public notice, Environmental Protection Agency rules regulating wood stoves became a major political battle as it could force millions of Americans to replace their old stoves.

The wood stove lobby (yes, there is actually a wood stove lobby) said the rules were so strict that they would harm air quality. Lobbyists said EPA rules would increase the costs of buying stoves and people would opt to keep their old one longer than they would have otherwise instead of buying a new one.

“Unfortunately, some of the standards proposed for the appliances do not meet the government’s duty to set standards based on data that show both a tangible benefit to consumers and cost-effectiveness,” said Jack Goldman, president of the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.

“We are hopeful that our thoughtful, fact-based comments will help guide the EPA in setting regulations that are achievable, cost-effective, and helpful in reaching our common goal of cleaner air for the public,” said Goldman.

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