Saturday, April 13, 2013

HVACR Survivor: The Regional Efficiency Standards Reality TV Show


The legal wrangling over the DOE regional efficiency standards has taken on the air of a day time soap opera, or reality TV. We can call our new program "HVACR Survivor." The May implementation of the regional efficiency standards will be delayed while a legal case works its way through the courts. On May 1 2013, furnace efficiencies were scheduled to start following the ruling. Under this scenario, non-weatherized furnaces in the northern region of the country would have to be a minimum of 90% AFUE. However, the American PublicGas Association (APGA) filed suit against the ruling(APGA suit). The DOE and APGA reached an agreement that would vacate the non-weatherized gas furnace and mobile home gas furnace standards and start the process over to develop a new standard (DOE APGA agreement). The rest of the standard would remain in tact. However, the agreement has to be accepted by the court to go into effect. Heating, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) filed a motion with the court to not allow the settlement, and instead, allow HARDI to replace APGA in the lawsuit (HARDI motion). HARDI would like the entire process to start over, not just the part with the furnaces. Since there is a real possibility that this will not be resolved prior to May 1, the DOE has sent out letters stating that it does not intend to enforce the rule pending the court ruling(DOE letter). So for the immediate future, you can still buy an 80% AFUE furnace up in Wisconsin if you want. Whether or not that is a wise thing to do is a topic for another debate. For now, we will just have to wait to see who is voted off the island. Below is an overview of the Regional Efficiency Standards in their original form.

Regional Efficiency Standards Overview


The Federal Department of Energy, DOE, issued a direct final ruling on furnace and air conditioner efficiency in October of 2011. The ruling breaks the country into three regions: North, Southeast, and Southwest regions. A map can be seen at http://www.achrnews.com/ext/resources/NEWS/Home/Images/ApplianceStandards-map-BIG.gif

In a nutshell: in the Northern region furnace efficiency will increase while heat pump and air conditioning efficiency will remain the same; in the Southeastern and Southwestern regions furnace efficiency will remain the same while heat pump and air conditioning efficiency will increase.

Table I.1 Amended Energy Conservation Standards for Furnace, Central Air Conditioner, and Heat Pump Energy Efficiency
Residential Furnaces*

Product Class
National Standards
Northern Region** Standards
Non-weatherized gas
AFUE = 80%
AFUE = 90%
Mobile home gas
AFUE = 80%
AFUE = 90%
Non-weatherized oil-fired
AFUE = 83%
AFUE = 83%
Weatherized gas
AFUE = 81%
AFUE = 81%
Mobile home oil-fired‡‡
AFUE = 75%
AFUE = 75%
Weatherized oil-fired‡‡
AFUE = 78%
AFUE = 78%
Electric‡‡
AFUE = 78%
AFUE = 78%
Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps†

Product Class
National Standards
Southeastern Region†† Standards
Southwestern RegionStandards

Split-system air conditioners
SEER = 13
SEER = 14
SEER = 14 EER = 12.2 (for units with a rated cooling capacity less than 45,000 Btu/h) EER = 11.7 (for units with a rated cooling capacity equal to or greater than 45,000 Btu/h)

Split-system heat pumps
SEER = 14 HSPF = 8.2
SEER = 14 HSPF = 8.2
SEER = 14 HSPF = 8.2

Single-package air conditioners‡‡
SEER = 14
SEER = 14
SEER = 14 EER = 11.0

Single-package heat pumps
SEER = 14 HSPF = 8.0
SEER = 14 HSPF = 8.0
SEER = 14 HSPF = 8.0

Small-duct, high-velocity systems
SEER = 13 HSPF = 7.7
SEER = 13 HSPF = 7.7
SEER = 13 HSPF = 7.7

Space-constrained products – air conditioners‡‡
SEER = 12
SEER = 12
SEER = 12

Space-constrained products – heat pumps‡‡
SEER = 12 HSPF = 7.4
SEER = 12 HSPF = 7.4
SEER = 12 HSPF = 7.4


The increased standards will be phased in over a period of years. Compliance with the standards in the direct final rule will be required on May 1, 2013 for non-weatherized furnaces and on January 1, 2015 for weatherized furnaces, central air conditioners and heat pumps. Industry reaction has been split. AHRI helped to develop the standards and supports them. They want to avoid the confusion and cost that was associated with the 13 SEER efficiency change that gave the industry very little time to prepare. (looks like we already blew that) AHRI also points to the Canadian experience when they mandated 90% . Their sister organization, HRAI, has stated that there were very few problems with Canada’s implementation of 90% standards. ACCA opposes the standards , especially the 90% furnace mandate, concerned that the extra cost will drive customers to illegal contractors, who feel no compulsion to follow the rules and will cheerfully install equipment that legitimate contractors are not allowed to offer. HARDI also opposes the regional standards, citing the difficulty this will make for distributors who service two or more regions. ACCA and HARDI also cite that there is currently no enforcement mechanism – no DOE police. Again, the problem is that contractors who don’t abide by the ruling achieve a competitive advantage over contractors who do. 

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