A working group comprised of more than a dozen stakeholders, including energy-efficiency advocates, HVACR industry organizations, and equipment manufacturers, recently reached an agreement on new energy-efficiency standards for residential air conditioners and heat pumps in the U.S. The Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps Working Group submitted its recommendations to the Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee (ASRAC) on Jan. 19. ASRAC approved the term sheet, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is expected to use the recommendations in its direct final rule (DFR) later this year.

About 60 percent of U.S. households have a central cooling system, and approximately 19 percent of those systems are heat pumps. And, according to an Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) press release, virtually all new homes are built with central air conditioning.

“The energy and bill savings from the recommended new central a/c and heat pump standards will really add up for consumers and the nation,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of ASAP and ASRAC’s representative on the working group. “Savings will reach about 300 billion kilowatt-hours on sales over 30 years — enough to cool 150 million average homes for a year — and $38 billion in [energy] bill savings.”

“This agreement is the latest in an impressive series of consensus agreements that we have reached in the past six months on regulatory matters,” said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). “While we did not, by any means, get all we would have liked, this agreement provides predictability for manufacturers for many years to come and eliminates the uncertainty that can occur with traditional notice-and-comment rulemakings.”

The ASRAC established the Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps Working Group in July 2015; it is the latest of several working groups to successfully create negotiated efficiency standards for industry equipment. Other negotiated rulemakings aided by working groups include walk-in coolers and freezers, regional standards enforcement, and commercial rooftop air conditioners and furnaces.

This is the third round of energy-efficiency improvements to the central air conditioners and heat pumps product class, and it represents a 50 percent energy savings when compared to the original 2006 standards.

“The latest update to the standards shows that sustained rates of improvement are possible even with products that have already seen major efficiency upgrades,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

“[The] agreement is a big win for consumers and the environment, as well as for manufacturers who get long-term regulatory certainty,” said Meg Waltner, manager for building energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The new standards will add to the long history of savings for these products, resulting in billions of dollars of consumer savings while reducing electricity use and the harmful pollution associated with it. It’s a win all around.”

The new energy-efficiency levels agreed to in the negotiations will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023, though they may be adjusted based on changes to product test procedures. Under the agreement, and using current test procedures, the efficiency level for residential central air conditioners under 45,000 Btuh would be 14 SEER in the North and 15 SEER in the Southeast and Southwest; for products exceeding 45,000 Btuh, the levels would be 14.5 SEER in the Southeast and Southwest and 14 SEER in the North. Heat pump efficiency levels would be set at 15 SEER for all regions, according to ASAP.

To view and download the working group’s term sheet, visit http://bit.ly/TermSheetACHP.


Some of the key elements of the term sheet agreed to by the working group and approved by ASRAC are as follows:

• Standards, effective Jan. 1, 2023, will achieve at least 7 percent savings (changes to the test method and equipment rating will increase savings beyond the nominal change in SEER value);

• Savings total about 300 million kWh over 30 years of sales, or roughly the power used by 27 million households in a year; and

• Based on today’s electricity prices, the value of these savings will total about $38 billion in utility bill savings.

The recommended standards will:

• Maintain the regional standards approach for central air conditioners, which first took effect in 2015. Higher standards are more cost-effective in the South than in the North, and the regional standards reflect this difference;

• Continue EER in the Southwest region. This is a second efficiency metric that is important for peak demand savings in that region;

• Continue with a single national standard for heat pumps; and

•Adopt important updates to the test method to make the test more representative of actual field conditions. These changes take effect with the new standards.

The term sheets include standards adjustments to reflect test method changes. The standards change is timed to correspond to the expected phaseout of refrigerants currently used in these products, a significant benefit and cost savings for manufacturers.

Information courtesy of the Appliance Standard Awareness Project (ASAP).


Members of the Central Air Conditioners and Central Air Conditioning Heat Pumps Working Group include: Southern Company; California Energy Commission; United Technologies Corp. (UTC); California Investor-Owned Utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and Southern California Gas Company); Lennox; ACCA; Rheem Mfg. Co.; Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); Johnstone Supply; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE); Goodman Mfg. Co.; Ingersoll Rand; Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP); and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Information courtesy of ASAP.

Publication date: 2/29/2016

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