The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) (Pub. L. 94-163) established an energy conservation program for major household appliances.  It is administered by the US Department of Energy (DOE), and has been amended several times over the years by actions called “Final Rules”.  In a Final Rule published on April 16, 2010 (to become effective in April 2013), DOE established:

1) 9000 BTU/hour as the limit whereby the product is considered “purely decorative” and are excluded from DOE’s regulations;
2) New efficiency requirements for Vented Hearth Products that are not decorative (greater than 9000 BTU/hour);
3) A definition for a new category of residential direct heating equipment known as “Vented Hearth Heaters”:

“Vented hearth heater means a vented, freestanding, recessed, zero clearance fireplace heater, a gas fireplace insert or a gas-stove, which simulates a solid fuel fireplace and is designed to furnish warm air, without ducts to the space in which it is installed.”

This definition did not specify gas log sets, but also did not specifically exclude them.  An FAQ sheet from Mohammed Khan (the DOE person in charge of this effort) states that in the definition of a “vented hearth heater” the “DOE believes that gas log sets products are intended to be installed for decorative purposes” and that “DOE interprets its definition of a ‘vented hearth heater’ as not covering vented gas log sets.”  Read this FAQ sheet.

HPBA and industry took exception to the fact that DOE defined decorative hearth products under the category of “Direct Heating Equipment” (DHE), and thus became regulated under the EPCA.  HPBA filed a lawsuit to protect its rights while negotiating regulatory changes that would exempt decorative gas fireplace from the heating efficiency standards of the Final Rule.  DOE was joined in the negotiations by the National Resource Defense Counsel (NRDC) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Negotiations with DOE broke down in June, 2011.  In July, HPBA filed a motion to the court to establish a schedule to brief the case, so that a final decision can be issued with as much time as possible before the April 2013 effective date of the regulation.  DOE opposed the motion and asked the court to keep the case “in abeyance” because it was issuing a new regulation that might make the litigation unnecessary.  On July 22, 2011, the DOE published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) in the Federal Register which now included gas log sets, despite the previous communication and rationale that excluded them.

The Proposed Rule would require that as of July 2014, all gas log sets must:
1) be certified to ANSI Z21.60;
2) not equipped with a thermostat, or void the warranty if one is ever attached;
3) be labeled as “Decorative Product: Not For Use As A Heating Appliance” on the rating plate, advertising and literature.
4) must not be equipped with a standing pilot.

If gas logs do not meet these requirements, then they must either consume less than 9000 BTU/hour, or comply with the energy efficiency ratings.

A public meeting was held at DOE headquarters in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2011, where industry provided comments on the Propose Rule.  After this meeting, the deadline for DOE to receive written public comments was extended to October 14, 2011.

On September 11, 2012, HPBA presented oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) regulation of decorative vented gas fireplaces.

On February 8, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit sided with the Hearth Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) and its Gas Logs and Fireplace manufacturing members in their lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy. This ruling by the DC Court of Appeals appears to have closed that door by throwing out the regulatory definition of “Vented Hearth Heater” and by invalidating the two DOE Final Rules issued in 2011.

March 25, 2013, deadline passed without DOE submitting a motion for reconsideration. Accordingly, the DC Court of Appeals rulings in favor of HPBA stands.

On December 24, 2013, DOE posted a pre-publication notice entitled “Proposed Determination of Hearth Products as a Covered Consumer Product.” The rulemaking seeks to establish “coverage” over essentially all gas hearth products; there are no energy standards directly proposed or put into place by this proposed determination, but DOE does indicate that adoption would be seen as “positively determin[ing] that future standards may be warranted and should be explored in subsequent energy conservation standards and test procedure rulemakings.”

On December 31, 2013 , DOE published the actual notice of “Proposed Determination of Hearth Products as a Covered Consumer Product.” This publication started the 30-day comment period.

On February 9, 2015, DOE published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) that would abolish standing pilots on all indoor and outdoor Hearth Products five years from the date of final adoption of the Rule. Comments must be submitted to DOE by April 10, 2015. A public meeting to discuss the Rule will be held on Monday, March 23, 2015, from 9am to 4pm at U.S. Department of Energy, Forrestal Building, Room 8E-089, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20585.



Jack King 06-09-2011, 19:33

I hope that this RULE is one of the ones Obama has cut as a job killer; but I’m not counting on it. I find it amazing how willing our president is to bury whole industries with the flick of a poison pen…as long as they not union backed, and how eager he is to promote proven duds like wind and solar so he can buy left wing votes.

admin 06-09-2011, 21:20

One of the problems is that the Hearth industry is very small, in the scheme of things. We don’t throw money at those who govern us, so we are inconsequential. I urge you to make your comments know to DOE about the job killer nature of this Proposed Rule.

Linda Brock 09-12-2011, 04:07

We’ve been trying to decide whether or not to purchase gas logs. Now that I’ve learned that the EPA and federal government are trying to destroy this industry, I’m ready to buy multiple sets before they take this decision out of our hands. We recently built a new house, complete with a washing machine (which meets government regulations) that doesn’t get our clothes clean, recessed lighting (for which we will be have to locate illegal lightbulbs), and toilets (which meet government regulations) which have inadequate flushes!


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The US Department of Energy Proposed Rule would harm the market for gas logs, and severely limit consumer choice ...



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Fallacy of ‘”Decorative” 9000 BTU

900 btu

With the stroke of a pen, the US Department of Energy declared that (as of July 1, 2011), a gas log set must not consume more that 9000 BTU/hour to be termed "decorative". If it consumes more gas than that, it must meet efficiency ratings for which no testing methodogy exists. Watch this video where Rett Rasmussen illustrates the fallacy of 9000 BTU/Hour being "decorative."

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