A federal district court has stopped a plan by Albuquerque, N.M., to impose its own efficiency standards for HVAC equipment.

A federal district court has temporarily stopped a plan by Albuquerque, N.M., to impose its own efficiency standards for HVAC equipment.

The 10th U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction Oct. 3, blocking the city from enforcing an ordinance passed last year that requires air conditioners installed in new or existing structures to have at least a 14 seasonal energy-efficiency rating - one point higher than the federal minimum - and residential furnaces to have a 90 percent annual fuel utilization efficiency rating. Current federal law requires a 78 percent efficiency rating.

The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, the Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, and 11 local HVAC distributors and contractors filed suit July 3, alleging that Albuquerque lacked the right to set its own standards for residential and commercial heating and air-conditioning equipment under federal law.

“Those of us who know the marketplace - the equipment manufacturers, dealers and installers - have discovered that when minimum standards are raised beyond the point at which they are economically justifiable, it results in more repairs and fewer replacements of older, less efficient equipment, therefore saving no energy,” said AHRI President Stephen Yurek. “We could achieve greater energy savings faster, especially in these tough economic times, if we provide incentives for homeowners to upgrade to equipment that meets the federal minimum-efficiency standards and take measures to ensure that this equipment is properly installed and maintained.”

In its opinion, the court said that while Albuquerque’s goals were solid, the ordinance likely “infringes on an area preempted by federal law.”

The court’s ruling does not end the case. However, it ruled that there was a substantial likelihood of the HVAC groups’ lawsuit succeeding.

The next hearing is expected to take place in early November.