ARLINGTON, Va. - The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) announced that it is committed to continue working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as it reconsiders residential furnace efficiency standards. “AHRI looks forward to working with DOE and other stakeholders to ensure that future standards are environmentally sound and economically justifiable,” said AHRI President Stephen Yurek, who issued the statement.

During the Bush administration, the DOE raised the gas furnace standard from 78 percent to 80 percent efficiency. The DOE now will reportedly consider a new standard of at least 90 percent efficiency.

Yurek said, “For many years, heating and cooling equipment manufacturers have been providing the market with a wide range of energy efficient - even super efficient - heating and cooling systems. In areas of the nation with relatively high numbers of heating or cooling days, consumers are buying these super-efficient systems because they make good economic sense and will likely pay for themselves through the energy savings they achieve.

“It is important, though, for regulators to recognize that super-efficient equipment comes with a higher cost, not just for the equipment, but also because, in some cases, it requires more complex installation. These higher costs can drive consumers to repair rather than replace their equipment, thereby extending the life of old, inefficient systems and delaying the potential energy savings of equipment upgrades. For example, when the federal government raised the minimum efficiency standard 30 percent for central air conditioners and heat pumps in 2006, repairs increased by 25 percent and sales of new equipment declined about 10 percent.

“Moving forward, this nation needs a good energy policy that:

• Provides incentives for consumers to replace their older, less efficient heating and cooling equipment;

• Supports technical education to build a highly skilled workforce that can properly install these systems to optimize their efficiency; and

• Initiates educational efforts to encourage consumers to properly maintain their systems and use them conservatively.

“Improperly installed or maintained central forced-air systems can be up to 50 percent less efficient than their rated efficiency. In fact, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than half of all systems in U.S. homes do not perform to their rated efficiency as a result of improper installation.

“With today’s high energy prices, energy efficient heating and cooling systems are good for homeowners, but restricting their choice to only the most super-efficient models could have the unintended consequence of making energy efficient heating and cooling systems financially unattainable for more people. There are many measures we need to consider as a nation that will help us achieve our environmental goals as quickly and effectively as possible.”

Publication date:04/27/2009