WASHINGTON - Air conditioner manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates have reached an agreement on a consensus federal efficiency standard for air conditioners and heat pumps used in commercial buildings.

The current federal standard was established by Congress in 1992 and calls for the most common types of equipment to have an energy efficiency ratio (EER) of 8.9. Under the agreement, the standard for the most common units will raise to 11.2 EER as of Jan. 1, 2010, a 26-percent improvement in efficiency. In addition, the agreement calls for extending the federal standards program to large package commercial air conditioners and heat pumps (up to 760,000-Btuh cooling capacity).

The agreement was negotiated during the last eight months by air conditioner manufacturers, represented by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), and by energy efficiency advocates, represented by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

"This agreement represents a win for the environment, for consumers, and for manufacturers," stated William Sutton, president of ARI. "The agreement gives manufacturers regulatory certainty to develop new models for 2010 that will meet both the new efficiency standards and EPA regulations to phase out the use of HCFC refrigerants that can deplete the ozone layer."

According to ACEEE, the agreement will reduce peak power needs by about 7,400 MW by 2020, equivalent to the output of 25 new power plants of 300 MW each. This same analysis found the agreement would result in net benefits to building owners of about $2.4 billion for commercial air conditioners purchased during the 2010-2030 period, considering the value of the energy savings and subtracting the additional cost of the improved equipment.

Publication date: 11/29/2004