ARLINGTON, Va. - William G. Sutton, president of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), has announced that the trade association has withdrawn its challenge regarding the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) energy efficiency regulation affecting central air conditioners and heat pumps.

"Due to the likelihood of a long and uncertain legal process, ARI will no longer pursue litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, so that manufacturers can prepare for a new 13 SEER national minimum efficiency standard for residential central air conditioners and heat pumps that will go into effect on Jan. 23, 2006," Sutton stated.

In March 2001, ARI had requested judicial review of the DOE's Jan. 22, 2001 final rule requiring a 30 percent increase in the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) for residential air conditioners and heat pumps, raising it to 13 SEER. ARI supported raising the current standard by 20 percent to 12 SEER, which the association said was economically justified for consumers and the most cost efficient way to save energy.

On May 23, 2002, following its review process, DOE withdrew the 13 SEER rule and issued a new regulation calling for a 12 SEER standard, which opponents challenged in a New York court on procedural grounds.

On Jan. 13, 2004, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that DOE, in enacting the 12 SEER standard, "failed to effect a valid amendment of the original standards' (13 SEER) effective date, and as a consequence was thereafter prohibited from amending those standards downward."

Sutton noted, "Manufacturers face significant challenges in meeting the deadline for the 13 SEER standard, which is less than two years away. The industry needs to know with certainty what the standard will be in order to meet the needs of the marketplace. Because of the approaching effective date and the uncertainty of the court action, ARI has withdrawn its request for review of the 13 SEER rule by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia."

The current 10 SEER standard, which went into effect in 1992, will continue to be the national minimum efficiency standard for central air conditioners and heat pumps until Jan. 23, 2006, when equipment manufactured after that date must meet the 13 SEER standard.

However, the DOE has excluded "space constrained products" no greater than 30,000 Btuh from the 13 SEER requirement, stating that these products, which include through-the-wall packaged and split, ductless split, and single package and non-weatherized equipment, would be covered by a subsequent rule. That rulemaking by DOE is expected to begin later this year. For these products the current minimum efficiency standard will continue until the compliance date established in the future DOE rule.

Publication date: 03/15/2004