DOE Update from HPBA

 

On Monday, March 21, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) submitted comments to the Department of Energy (DOE) in response to the agency’s Regulatory Reduction Request for Information (76 Fed. Reg. 6123, February 3, 2011).  The agency sought comments under the directive of Executive Order 13563 (“Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review”), issued by President Obama on January 18, 2011, to determine whether existing regulations should be modified or repealed to make the agency’s regulatory program more effective and less burdensome in achieving its regulatory goals.  The RFI also included a “reply comment” deadline of April 4, 2011, which is why we are reaching out to our industry colleagues.  We are seeking assistance from allied industry organizations in the form of “reply comments” submitted in support of our comments.

By way of background, DOE issued a final rule on April 16, 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 20112) that would virtually eliminate new decorative vented gas fireplaces from the market, effective  April 16, 2013.  The rule arbitrarily imposed a maximum BTU input rate of 9,000 Btu/hr for these products, a limit that is far too low for any conventional gas fireplace.  All other vented gas fireplaces were classified as direct heating equipment (DHE) subject to minimum heating efficiency standards that are neither appropriate nor achievable for decorative vented gas fireplaces.  This rule will effectively ban approximately 70% of the vented gas fireplaces being sold today, and will have a devastating impact on the gas fireplace industry.

DOE had no basis to impose this kind of result.  Decorative vented gas appliances are not designed or used as utilitarian heating appliances, and the statute addressing DHE – the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987, which was the product of negotiation between industry and public interest groups – was never intended to cover decorative vented gas fireplaces.  Moreover, DOE never even suggested that it was considering a ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces: it simply slipped the ban into its final rule without any notice to industry and the public, or consideration at all of the impact this would have on the industry.  A more thorough discussion of the rule’s background and the issues involved is provided in our comments (attached).

Again, we are reaching out to related organizations to solicit comments in support of our position in a matter of critical importance to our industry.  If you would be willing to submit comments in support, please let us know.  We would appreciate any support, but it would be particularly helpful to have comments indicating that the ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces raises concerns that extend beyond the manufacturers of these products.  It would also be helpful to have support with respect to the following points:

Decorative vented gas fireplaces should not have been addressed in DOE’s final rule.
• The rule was supposed to address “direct heating equipment,” and decorative vented gas fireplaces clearly are not heating equipment.
• Their function and use is completely different.
• Their desired performance characteristics are completely different.
• They are listed to ANSI Z21.50, and not Z.21.88.
• It makes no sense to regulate decorative vented gas fireplaces as heating equipment subject to heating efficiency standards.
• The utility of decorative vented gas fireplaces lies in their aesthetic appeal, not in their ability to deliver heat.
• Heating efficiency is not the relevant performance measure for these products.
• The proposed rule made it clear that only heating appliances were being considered for regulation. Decorative products were not part of DOE’s evaluation nor were any manufacturers asked to supply information about that product.

The ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces should be repealed.
• DOE never suggested, nor implied, to the industry the possibility of a ban on purely decorative vented gas fireplaces.
• The ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces will have serious adverse impact on the industry, and DOE never considered the actual impact of such a ban.
• The ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces will unreasonably limit consumer choice.
• The ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces will provide no energy conservation benefits.
• Because these products are used for aesthetic enjoyment rather than heating, they are operated only occasionally and for relatively brief periods of time.  As a result, the use of these products is not a significant energy consumption issue.
• The ban on decorative vented gas fireplaces will simply cause a shift to other fireplace products, resulting in either no net energy conservation benefits or an increase in energy use. 

If you do choose to submit comments by April 4th, please provide HPBA a copy of the comments as well.  If you have any questions on the matter, please do not hesitate to contact me (Allan Cagnoli, at cagnoli@hpba.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), or at 703-522-0086.