Department of Energy Clarifies and Enforces Regional Standards for Central Air Conditioners
On July 14, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy published what is termed as a “final action” to enforce regional standards for central air conditioners. These provisions had already been authorized by Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975, and this was fundamentally an administrative “rulemaking” initiative that will assist the DOE in maintaining energy conservation standards for central air conditioners that are implemented regionally.
Procedurally, this program is the result of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) issued on Nov. 19, 2015, by the DOE to adopt requirements related to the enforcement of regional standards for central air conditioners. A “Working Group” of industry leaders convened to consider ramifications of the action with members selected by Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee (ASRFAC) “to ensure a broad and balanced array of stakeholder interests and expertise” and included efficiency advocates, utility representatives, manufacturers, contractors, and distributors of central air conditioners.
When they reviewed the issues, they determined the regional standards did require clarification, because particular condensing units actually have a wide range of efficiency ratings when paired with various indoor evaporator coils and/or blowers.
In reviewing the concerns, the Working Group provided four recommendations to clarify the regional standards:
- The least efficient rated combination for a specified model of condensing unit must be 14 SEER for models installed in the Southeast and Southwest regions.
- The least efficient rated combination for a specified model of condensing unit must meet the minimum EER for models installed in the Southwest region.
- Any condensing unit model that has a certified combination that is below the regional standard(s) cannot be installed in that region.
- A condensing unit model certified below a regional standard by the original equipment manufacturer cannot be installed in a region subject to a regional standard(s) even with an independent coil manufacturer's indoor coil or air handler combination that may have a certified rating meeting the applicable regional standard(s).
Interested parties submitted comments on the proposed clarification to the regional standards. Lennox supported the clarifications discussed ̶ and recommended these clarifications be used to provide consistent language in the central air conditioner test procedure rulemaking that are based on basic models. (Lennox, No. 95 at p. 2)
Key recommendations emerging from the industry Working Group to ensure compliance include:
- Providing a web page with information on regional standards for central air conditioners (CACs) that could be referenced by manufacturers, distributors, contractors, and other interested parties – found at http://www.energy.gov/gc/regional-standards-enforcement (Print material also available.)
- Encouraging manufacturers to provide the information to its distributors, asking distributors to provide the information to contractors, and requesting contractors provide this information to purchasers.
- Suggesting the DOE conduct a public presentation (accessible via internet as well as in-person) on regional standards for CACs and the enforcement of such standards in order to educate stakeholders and the public on these regulations. (DOE expects that the presentation will be available in July 2016.)
- Requesting CAC manufacturers provide training about regional standards to distributors and contractors/dealers. Distributors and contractors also agreed to conduct their own training on regional standards. No specific guidelines for the training were established.
The effective date for this administrative rule is August 15, 2016.
For future information and inquiry, contact:
Ms. Ashley Armstrong, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Office, EE-5B, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585-0121. Telephone: (202) 586-6590. Email: Ashley.Armstrong@ee.doe.gov.
Ms. Laura Barhydt, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of the General Counsel, GC-32, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585-0121. Telephone: (202) 287-5772. Email: Laura.Barhydt@hq.doe.gov.