Although the Department of Energy (DOE) has published its proposed 12-SEER rule in the Federal Register, setting aside the Clinton administration’s 13-SEER rule, the 12- vs. 13-SEER debate is far from over. The main proponents for each side continue to speak out. And the rest of the ind-ustry can register its views as well.

As reported in The News’ July 30, 2001 issue, the 12-SEER rule is now undergoing a 75-day comment period, which is set to end on October 9. Also, a public hearing has been scheduled for September 13. (For details, see “How to Comment,” below.)

Following the publication of the new rule, both Goodman Manufacturing and the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) issued statements. Goodman pledged to continue its campaign for a 13-SEER standard.

A Missed Opportunity

David Parks, president of Goodman, noted that the official notice by the DOE means, “consumers will miss the opportunity to enjoy a 30% reduction in monthly utility costs. For the nation, this means having to build at least 53 more power plants if the Department of Energy is successful in its attempt to roll back the 13-SEER standard to a level of 12 SEER.”

He added, “Increasing the standard to 13 SEER is more cost-effective for consumers.” If this was the standard, manufacturers would produce these units in much greater volume. As volume increases, economies of scale improve, he maintained.

“In fact, since the first air conditioning standard became effective in 1987 at a level of 10 SEER, the average price of our 10-SEER air conditioner has declined 30%,” Parks stated.

“The most affordable and energy-efficient technology must be made available to individuals of all income levels, [which] is the reason we continue to try to engage administration officials on this issue,” he concluded.

In his statement, Clifford H. (Ted) Rees Jr., president of ARI, called the 12-SEER rule a “fair and economically justified way to help America meet its energy efficiency requirements.”

Shifting Efficiency Higher

Rees stated the standard would save 3 quads of energy over 25 years when the rule goes into effect in 2006. In addition, he said that enactment of tax incentives could help shift efficiency levels even higher as consumers better understand the benefits of reduced operating costs as well as reduced emissions from electric power plants.

He added, “The DOE’s decision is good news for consumers for whom a 13-SEER national standard would not provide enough operating cost savings to offset the higher cost of the units. DOE recognizes the adverse impact this would have on working families, seniors, and those on fixed incomes.

“Rather than propose a rule that encourages homeowners to keep older equipment operating longer, the DOE is proposing a rule that provides affordable air conditioning for many more Americans as it preserves jobs and competition in the industry. This is the fairest way to achieve the greatest energy conservation,” Rees asserted.

The DOE proposal calls for 12 SEER for central air conditioners and heat pumps and a corresponding HSPF (heating system performance factor) of 7.4, except for through-the-wall products.

Split-system through-the-wall air conditioners and heat pumps up to 30,000 Btuh would have a 10.9 SEER and 7.1 HSPF, while single package through-the-wall air conditioners and heat pumps up to 30,000 Btuh would have a 10.6 SEER and 7.0 HSPF. After 2009, 12 SEER and 7.4 HSPF would go into effect.

Sidebar: How to Comment

Comments on the 12-SEER rule must be received at the Department of Energy on or before October 9. DOE asks for a signed original, a computer diskette, and 10 copies. It will accept e-mailed comments, but you must send a signed original. Oral comments may be presented at the public hearing on September 13, at 9 a.m., in Room 1E-245 of the DOE’s Washington, DC, offices. A request to speak at the hearing, with a copy of your statements and a computer diskette, must be submitted no later than 4 p.m. on September 10.

Mail your comments and requests to speak to Brenda Edwards-Jones, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Energy Conservation Program for Consumer Products: Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps, Docket No. EE-RM/STD-98-440, 1000 Independence Avenue S.W., Washington, DC 20585-0121. E-mails should be sent to

Publication date: 08/06/2001