WASHINGTON - The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has announced that the nation’s leading HVAC manufacturers today signed an historic, voluntary agreement with leading energy-efficiency advocacy organizations calling for regional efficiency standards and also recommending more stringent building code provisions for new construction.

The agreement for the first time sets different efficiency standard levels in three climate regions - North, South, and Southwest - recognizing that appropriate investments in heating and cooling efficiency depend on usage. Such regional standards are allowed under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The agreement also allows states to include even higher efficiency levels for heating and cooling systems in new homes. New houses can be built without physical restrictions that might hinder installation of highly efficient equipment, as there might be when replacing equipment in an existing home. This new agreement is said to strike a balance between the desire for greater state and regional flexibility and the need for a uniform marketplace, and it looks to the nation’s long-term energy future by supporting the most efficient new systems where they are most cost-effective.

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. 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.

Executives of AHRI, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Alliance to Save Energy (Alliance), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), California Energy Commission (CEC), 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 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) promulgate a rule adopting the agreed-upon regions and efficiency standards.

“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 AHRI.

Steven Nadel, executive director of ACEEE, said, “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.”

“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, as it allows states to adopt codes that will ensure major savings for new homeowners while also taking a bite out of global warming.”

For more information on AHRI, visit www.ahrinet.org. For more information on ACEEE, visit aceee.org. For more information on the Alliance to Save Energy, visit www.ase.org.

Publication date:10/12/2009