WASHINGTON - The nation’s leading manufacturers of residential central air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps signed a historic, voluntary agreement with the nation’s leading energy-efficiency advocacy organizations supporting new federal standards for those products Oct. 13. For the first time, the agreement calls for regional efficiency standards to replace a quarter century of national standards, and it also recommends more stringent building code provisions for new construction.

Executives of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), the California Energy Commission (CEC), the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC), and more than a dozen individual furnace and air conditioner manufacturers signed the agreement following months of negotiations.

The signatories agreed to submit their agreement jointly as a legislative proposal to Congress for inclusion in the energy legislation currently under consideration. The groups will also recommend that the Department of Energy (DOE) promulgate a rule adopting the agreed-upon regions and efficiency standards.

The new standards are projected to save U.S. consumers about $13 billion in today’s dollars between 2013, when the new standards begin to take effect, and 2030 - taking into account the incremental cost of the more efficient equipment.

Between now and 2030, the agreement also reportedly will save 3.7 quadrillion Btu of energy nationwide. The new standards would raise the minimum efficiency of residential central air conditioning systems by about 8 percent and furnaces by about 13 percent, and would result in a 5 percent reduction of the total heating energy load and a 6 percent reduction of the total cooling energy load in 2030.

“In addition to saving significant amounts of energy for the nation - and saving consumers considerable money - this agreement provides industry with greater certainty in the marketplace, which enables more investment, enhances global competitiveness, and preserves jobs,” said Stephen Yurek, president of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute.

Gary Clark, vice president, Goodman Manufacturing said, “We see it as a tremendous benefit to have 39 months for our planning schedule. Having an assurance of what these efficiency levels are going to be, we can be prepared for regional standards which are a very logical move for the industry.”

Steven Nadel, executive director of ACEEE, observed, “We believe this proposal represents a large leap forward in improving our nation’s energy efficiency, while also reducing consumer energy bills and helping to clean our environment. Regional standards are a major step for cost-effective savings, and will help manufacturers meet the very different needs of homes in cold, hot-humid, and hot-dry climates.”

The agreement also allows states to include even higher efficiency levels for heating and cooling systems for new home construction.

“We all know that constructing buildings efficiently from the ground up is the best way to maximize savings of energy, money, and emissions,” said Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan. “This is particularly critical in homes, where heating and cooling typically account for the largest single chunk - about 40 percent - of monthly energy bills. So the building codes provision of today’s agreement is especially significant.”

In addition, under the agreement, DOE would be required to publish a final rule no later than June 30, 2011, to determine whether standards for through the wall and small duct high velocity air conditioners and heat pumps should be amended. New standards would apply to products manufactured on or after June 30, 2016.


Under the agreement, the United States is divided into three regions: (1) the North, comprised of states with population-weighted heating degree days (HDD) equal to or greater than 5,000; (2) the South, comprised of states with population-weighted HDD less than 5,000; and the Southwest, comprised of Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico. In the North, most furnaces will be required to have an efficiency of 90 percent or more, essentially requiring condensing furnaces. This is an improvement from the current national standard of 78 percent. In the South, central air conditioners will be required to have a SEER of 14, up from the present national requirement of 13 SEER. Heat pump and oil furnace standards will rise on a nationwide basis. The standards apply to residential single-phase air conditioners and heat pumps less than 65,000 Btuh of cooling capacity (except through-the-wall and small duct high velocity products), and single-phase weatherized and non-weatherized forced-air furnaces (including mobile home furnaces) below 225,000 Btuh heat input.

For split air conditioners, minimum EER values also are specified for the Southwest.

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and the Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) refused to sign the agreement and both expressed displeasure at what HARDI had termed “unilateral negotiations on an agreement which conflicted with every major policy position of the industry regarding appliance standards.” HARDI members will meet with AHRI president Steve Yurek during the HARDI Annual Meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 3 in Orlando. ACCA is surveying contractor members before determining a course of action.

Keith Coursin, chairman of AHRI, said, “For industry this agreement is significant because when manufacturers know what the rules are going to be, they can plan for the future. When enacted into law, this will relieve our industry from endless rulemaking procedures, and allow us to build and provide products that work for the better good of the public.”

Publication date:10/19/2009