At the very, very end of 2016, the Department of Energy issued “final rules” for a few types of equipment/appliances. One of the rules addressed commercial packaged boilers. As its summary states, “In this final rule, DOE is adopting more-stringent energy conservation standards for certain commercial packaged boilers.”

According to Joanna Mauer of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (, the DOE reckons a large oil-fired steam boiler owner could save as much as $36,000 over the unit’s lifetime thanks to the boosted efficiency. Mauer works this improvement out to a 30-year overall savings for owners nationwide of anywhere from $500 million to $2 billion.

Now, standards of different sorts for assorted boilers have traveled a long and winding road over the last few years, so one might think this was a finish line (even if compliance would not kick in for three years) worth celebrating at least from a uncertainty/certainty perspective. Sadly, one would be wrong.

Why? Because there was a 45-day waiting period between the issue of the final rule and placing the standards in the National Register, an act that helps sets them in regulatory stone. That wait typically might not be such a big deal. However, can you think of anything momentous that might have happened in the federal government over the subsequent month and a half?

That’s right, and before inauguration day was over, new White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued his own memo, freezing the process for four such end-of-year rules (portable air conditioners and uninterruptible power supplies were among the others).
Will they get thawed out and finalized? Too soon to tell. Differing opinions exist about the quality of the revised boiler standard, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Trump administration toss back any efficiency- and emissions-related proposal for “more input” and so forth, or even scrap it outright.
When we find out how it ends, we’ll print it. Or maybe it would be more appropriate to tweet it first …



No, not the classic Miles Davis tune from the late 1950s, but the opportunity to send a big congratulations out to Howard McKew. Howie snuck up on us this month, with a column that marks 25 years of writing for Engineered Systems. The column names have changed, the business has changed, but he has continued to blend a levelheaded demeanor with a constant interest in finding the next big (or small) improvement in how the work gets done.

Perhaps most interestingly, I don’t think he’s written about it in a while, but Howard cultivated his expertise over the years via a personal strategy that involved regularly changing professional environments and angles for approaching the HVAC industry. That habit of prioritizing discovery over routine has contributed to his diversified knowledge base and distinct vision of the overall process through a building’s lifetime, and we are grateful he has made an exception to stick around for such an impressive tenure here in the pages of ES.