DoE Releases Aggressive Commercial AC, Furnace Rules

air_conditioningThe U.S. Department of Energy yesterday released standards for commercial air conditioners and furnaces that it says will reduce carbon emissions by 885 tons and save 167 billion over the course of the lifetime of the products they regulate.

The rules are significant, according to Jim Marston, the Environmental Defense Fund’s Vice President for US Climate and Energy. “Reducing wasted energy is one of the fastest, most affordable paths to cutting pollution,” he told Energy Manager Today. “These ambitious new efficiency standards are expected to cut more than a year’s worth of carbon pollution from the U.S. electricity system, saving more energy than any other standard the Department of Energy has issued as of yet. After all, the cheapest, cleanest, most reliable electricity is the electricity we don’t have to use.”

The announcement came less than a week after a climate change agreement was struck at COP21 in Paris. That deal – which was agreed upon by all 195 nations participating in the talks – has a goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Experts say this doing this would obviate the most extreme impacts of global warming.

The new DoE rules will take effect in 2018 and 2023. The first phase will mandate a 13 percent energy efficiency improvement and the second an additional 15 percent, according to the DoE.

Meg Waltner and Lauren Urbanek outlined the rules on the National Resources Defense Council blog. They wrote that during the next 30 years the rules will reduce the energy necessary to drive the equipment they regulate by 15 quadrillion BTUs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 885 million metric tons. The post says that about 290,000 commercial air conditioners, heat pumps and warm-air furnaces fitting the definition of the rules ship each year.

The savings will vary – and be significant:

For instance, a small commercial building with a 90,000 Btu/hour (7.5 ton) unit could expect to save about 3,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year compared to today’s least efficient model, which would translate to around $6,000 in utility bill savings over the life of the unit.

The blog also addresses implementation. Performance will be certified under the new Integrated Energy Efficiency Ratio (IEER) metric, which will assess operations under a variety of conditions. The existing Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) metric – which assess peak performance on hot days – will continue to be used. The 2018 levels mandate equipment be 10 percent more efficient than today. The 2023 rules hike the requirement to 25 percent to 30 percent more efficient. A rulemaking process on test procedures will begin early next year, with rules issued by January 1, 2019.

Kateri Callahan, the President of the Alliance to Save Energy, said that the new standards are twice as large as any previous administration initiative to cut energy use and save money to date. “Most significantly, however, is the fact that this standard marks the 40th efficiency standard issued during the Obama Administration,” she told Energy Manager Today. “Added together, in the past seven year, DOE has issued standards that will result in $535 billion in savings for American business and consumers while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2 billion tons.”

She suggested that more may be on the horizon. “DOE has publicly stated its goal to avoid 3 billion tons of carbon through cost-effective appliance and equipment standards,” Callahan wrote. “Since this latest rule brings the total estimated savings to only 2/3 of that goal, you can expect to see more standards coming in the final year of the Obama Administration.  And, this is very good news for our economy and our environment.”


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2 thoughts on “DoE Releases Aggressive Commercial AC, Furnace Rules

  1. Logic suggests that as efficiency-related technology improves, manufacturers will naturally improve their products but I can’t help but feel that raising AC & furnace efficiency standards by 28% hasn’t been done more for political reasons than anything else.

  2. The claim that the DOE has saved $535B over the past 7 years is disingenuous, at best.

    On one hand, an ROI consideration requires knowledge of the total cost. Are we to believe that HVAC/R companies yielded new product technologies (including training, tools, etc.) with no cost? How did the regulation impact the M&A activity that subsequently reduced competition?

    On the other hand, if reductions are inherently good for the economy, then why not require absolute efficiency immediately? Attempting to answer that question necessarily brings you back to an adult conversation, versus the wild claims of EDF/ASE/DOE/NDRC.

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