Energy Secretary Donald P. Hodel has ruled out national energy efficiency standards for six major household appliances, after accepting an Office of Management and Budget argument that a standard for central air conditioning systems--a standard Hodel initially favored--was not "economically justifiable."

Hodel's decision was attacked immediately by Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Alan Miller, who issued a statement saying: "A program that could save consumers millions of dollars at no cost to the government has been sacrificed to the administration's free-market rhetoric."

The DOE is required by law to set energy efficiency standards for major household appliances, but the rules have been caught up in the regulatory review process since the Reagan administration took office. The rules approved by Hodel essentially set "no standard" as the standard for refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, water heaters and room and central air conditioners.

Department spokesman Constance Stuart said yesterday that preliminary data collected by the department showed that an efficiency standard for central air conditioning systems would result in significant energy savings. Central air conditioners use more energy than any of the other appliances involved.

When the final rules were sent to the OMB for review, Stuart said, DOE submitted three options for a rule on central air conditioners. The first would have imposed an energy efficiency standard, the second would have asked for more information on certain issues and the third would have been a "no-standard standard" like the rules for the other appliances.

The OMB, she said, rejected the first two options, and, after examining the economic data, the department agreed to put out no standard for central air conditioners as well.