Earlier this year, the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization, announced it would be joining nonprofit public interest law organization, Earthjustice; the Consumer Federation of America; the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); and a coalition of state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) delays in issuing new energy-efficiency standards for ceiling fans, freezers, boilers, and commercial and consumer goods. While these environmental organizations claim the lawsuit is due to their thinking the standards will protect public health and save on energy costs, most HVAC industry organizations are largely on the other side of the coin, stating that these organizations do not understand what these regulations mean for HVAC manufacturers, distributors, and contractors.


According to ASHRAE, “The DOE issued a publication notice of the final rules in December with the final rules to follow in February or March. Those deadlines have now passed with no rules published. According to the groups filing suit, this violates the Energy Policy and Conservation Act [EPCA] and Administrative Procedures Act. The final rules for ceiling fan efficiency and certain federal residential building energy standards are set to take effect on Sept. 30 while test procedures associated with compressors, central air conditioners, and walk-in coolers and freezers (WICF) have been postponed until late June or early July.”

For ceiling fans, the DOE issued that each product class has a minimum allowable efficiency in terms of cfm per watt as a function of ceiling fan diameter in inches and applies to all ceiling fans manufactured in, or imported into, the U.S. on and after Jan. 21, 2020. This standard was delayed for a second time on March 21 until Sept. 30. Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, delayed it due to the fact that he just assumed his new position on March 3.

The DOE is adopting energy conservation standards for the following classes of WICF refrigeration systems: low-temperature dedicated condensing refrigeration systems and both medium- and low-temperature unit coolers. These standards will be in addition to other standards the DOE has already circulated for medium-temperature dedicated condensing refrigeration systems.

Three years ago, Congress was required to examine the minimum efficiency performance of commercial boilers. The DOE initiated that rulemaking on time in 2015, though further action was delayed until the update was published in early 2016. Currently, commercial boiler standards require a minimum efficiency of 77-84 percent. The proposed commercial boiler standard would raise that minimum to 81-88 percent.

For commercial and consumer goods, manufacturers, including importers, must use the product-specific templates created by the DOE to certify compliance to the DOE prior to distributing a basic model to commerce in the U.S. and annually thereafter. The templates must be submitted electronically to the DOE through the Compliance Certification Management System.


While the environmental organizations and state attorneys generally argue these standards are good for both consumers and the environment, several industry organizations have an opposing argument, stating that many of these organizations are misinformed on the way in which these regulations negatively impact manufacturers, distributors, and contractors.  

According to Jon Melchi, vice president, government and external affairs, Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), the delay is a good thing.

“We believe a delay is proper given the broad impact that these regulations will have and the haste in which many regulations are developed as an administration departs Washington,” he said. “It’s our hope that improvements can be made in the regulatory process to make sure that regulations are beneficial to consumers and not detrimental to the HVAC industry and developed in a manner which makes sense for all. Clearly, many of these regulations spotlight the need for improvement.”

Barton James, senior vice president for government relations, ACCA, agrees, and he has been working tirelessly with ACCA to shed light on the disservice these environmental organizations do to the consumer when they petition for these regulations.

“These groups are misnamed by many in the industry as advocates, though they’re not advocating for anybody. They have done a disservice to the consumer for years. I am proud of the work that we at ACCA are doing to turn that around; we’ve become the advocate for consumers and are trying to help members understand these regulations. This lawsuit is another way to push regulations out on products that people aren’t wanting. These organizations are frustrated with the new administration not moving forward with the agenda they had in mind prior to the new administration taking office. We, however, are excited that the new administration is pushing back on some of this, and we’re partnering with them to help people better understand these regulations’ impact.”

Overall, HVAC industry organizations would like to see that regulations are based on industry experts’ opinions and feedback rather than the opinions of environmental organizations and other not applicable networks. So, what is the best and worst case scenario for the future of these regulations?

“Best-case scenario, the focus switches to realized efficiency and with regulations based on the experts,” James said. “Also, that the voices of consumers and contractors are heard. There’s a place for regulations and rules, but they need to be tied into the consumer. Worst-case scenario, the focus spotlight doesn’t shift to where it needs to be, and the DOE continues to push regulations, which ultimately impact consumers.” 

Publication date: 7/31/2017

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