The Department of Energy has confirmed a final rule that would establish regional energy efficiency standards. The decision was one championed by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute.

In announcing the ruling, the DOE said that “adverse comments received in response to the direct final rule (prescribing minimum energy efficiency standards for residential furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps) do not provide a reasonable basis for withdrawing the direct final rule.”

According to AHRI, the DOE’s decision means that manufacturers can continue to prepare for the first implementation date of May 1, 2013, for non-weatherized furnaces.

”This rule demonstrates what can be accomplished when we work together with industry and advocacy groups to save energy and improve the environment,” said Stephen Yurek, AHRI’s president and CEO. “This effort has been underway since 2009, and we are pleased DOE has made a final decision so we can move forward as an industry to comply with the new standards.”

The DOE says the updated air-conditioner, heat pump, and furnace standards will save the nation between 3.2 and 4.2 quadrillion Btu (quads) of cumulative primary energy between 2013 and 2045.  This is equivalent to eliminating the need for approximately 3.8 to 3.9 gigawatts of generating capacity. The new standards are estimated to save U.S. consumers more than $15 billion (in 2009 dollars) between their effective dates and 2045.

AHRI members will continue to review the off-mode standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps that were included in the rule, and will work with the DOE on the test procedures with which manufacturers can determine compliance.

”While we would have preferred the department sever the off-mode standard from the direct final rule, we will work with DOE on the test procedure,” said Yurek.

Following the May 1, 2013, effective date for non-weatherized furnaces, the next milestone will be January 1, 2015, for central air conditioners and heat pumps.