Citing an Arizona housing construction boom that’s complicated by supply-chain snags and a labor shortage, five members of Congress from that state are seeking to postpone the implementation of new energy efficiency standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps.
If the Department of Energy’s 2023 standards take effect January 1 as planned, months-long delays in completing homes could result “while the manufacturers and the supply chain figure out what they are doing,” the five wrote to Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, in a letter dated July 20.
The request comes as the HVAC industry, from manufacturers to contractors and installers, readies for new energy efficiency standards and testing procedures, for which new metrics for measuring efficiency were developed.
“We believe that the residential construction industry needs additional time to access newly manufactured updated equipment, given the standard lead times that home construction requires,” the letter reads, in part. “The current installation deadline issued by DOE does not take into account the phased construction of individual homes that would require this updated equipment to be available today.”
The letter asks that the starting point for the 2023 standards be put off until July 1, 2023. The DOE did not respond to several phone calls and emails from The ACHR NEWS inquiring about the request.
The signers are Republican Reps. Debbie Lesko, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, and David Schweikert, and Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat. They represent five of Arizona’s nine congressional districts.
The 2023 DOE efficiency standards vary by region. In the Southwestern and Southeastern U.S., the regulations say that a/c equipment that does not comply with the 2023 efficiency minimums cannot be installed after December 31 of this year. In the DOE’s terms, Arizona is in the Southwest region along with California, Nevada, and New Mexico.
The letter explains that, in new construction, home HVAC systems in the region are installed in two phases — the interior components first, then the exterior — that are roughly five to six months apart even in normal times. Homes being roughed in now, the letter said, require not-yet-available interior equipment that will work with the exterior components that will have to be installed beginning January 1.
“I am urging the Biden administration to change the deadline to provide builders with the time they need to implement these new requirements,” said Lesko, who represents part of western Phoenix and many of its western and northwestern suburbs.
If there is no delay, “Home buyers will have to find another place to live while these logistical delays are fixed, a costly burden at a time when those other living options are also in short supply,” said the letter.
Non-compliant a/c products are not supposed to be made after December 31, but may be installed in the Northern U.S. after that date as long as they are available. Heat pumps, though required to have greater efficiency beginning next year, are not subject to “install by” dates.
The push for the delay came after an HVAC contractor’s email about the issue to a home builder was forwarded to the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona (HBACA), said Jackson Moll, the organization’s vice president of municipal affairs.
“We immediately reached out to Representative Lesko’s office,” Moll said. That was toward the end of June. The problem soon “became an issue of great interest” among builders there, Moll said.
As the letter was being drafted, the HBACA “provided some of the technical details of what exactly the issue is and what the impact is on our builders,” Moll said.
“We would be very appreciative of the Department of Energy taking into account the supply-chain concerns the builders are facing and give the market time to catch up,” Moll said. Moll added that he was not yet aware of a DOE response, “but of course we are hoping there will be one quickly.”
Moll said home builders are now assessing what projects may have to be paused if a delay is not granted.
In the area served by the HBACA, 16,517 permits for single-family detached houses were issued so far in 2022, Moll said late last month. It’s possible, he said, that some of those projects will be completed this year and thus compliant with current HVAC standards.
In the last 13 months, he said, more than 33,000 permits for single-family detached houses have been issued in the region.
Along with the home-construction boom, Arizona is seeing a housing shortage, Moll said, that has caused an affordability crisis. “It’s a big topic of discussion here in Arizona,” he said. The Phoenix market topped the nation in month-over-month home-value appreciation for a recent 33-month period, he said,
According to the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in the Phoenix market in the first quarter of the year was $474,500, more than $100,000 above the nationwide median.