The Air-conditioning Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) hosted a joint press conference with leading environmental and energy efficiency advocacy groups to formally sign an unprecedented agreement that would establish regionalized efficiency standards on 20 residential split system air conditioners and gas furnaces.

The agreement is intended to head off a Department of Energy rulemaking on these products set to be proposed later this year. The AHRI agreement establishes the basis for three regions along state lines.

  • The first would be all states north of the 5,000 heating degree day (HDD) line with an unchanged split system air conditioning standard at 13 SEER and a higher gas furnace standard of 90% AFUE.
  • A southeastern region with states east of New Mexico and south of the 5,000 HDD line would have a residential split system air conditioning standard of 14 SEER and gas furnace standard of 80% AFUE.
  • A southwestern region consisting of California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico would also have a gas furnace standard of 80% AFUE, but would have multiple efficiency standards on split system air conditioners of 14 SEER, 12.2 EER on systems less than 45,000 Btu/h and 14 SEER, 11.7 EER on systems greater than 45,000 Btu/h and less than 65,000 Btu/h.

    National standards for split and packaged air source heat pumps, weatherized furnaces, oil furnaces, and packaged air conditioners will also increase (with an EER standard established in the southwestern region). The new non-weatherized furnace standards will take effect in 2013 and all other standards changes will take effect in 2015.

    The agreement also allows states to include even higher efficiency levels for heating and cooling systems in new homes. New houses can be built without physical restrictions that might hinder installation of highly efficient equipment - as there might be when replacing equipment in an existing home. This new approach is said to strike a balance between the desire for greater state and regional flexibility and the need for a uniform marketplace, by looking to the nation's long-term energy future and supporting the most efficient new systems where they are most cost-effective.

    The new standards are projected to save U.S. consumers about $13 billion in today's dollars between 2013, when the new standards begin to take effect, and 2030 - taking into account the incremental cost of the more efficient equipment. 

    Executives of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Alliance to Save Energy (Alliance), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), the California Energy Commission (CEC), the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC), and more than a dozen individual furnace and air conditioner manufacturers signed the agreement following months of negotiations. 

    However, HARDI declined to sign the agreement because it said the proposal signaled a complete reversal of every industry policy position of the last three plus years and because AHRI was unwilling to provide assurances that they would not enter into future "consensus" agreements unilaterally on the next phase of implementation and enforcement of this agreement or any other future agreements affecting other industry stakeholders.

    HARDI also said it will take a proactive leadership position in the enforcement and compliance aspect of this agreement, and retain the right to advocate against all or portions of the agreement (to be determined by the HARDI membership in the coming months) as the signatories attempt to advance legislation to implement the terms of the agreement. HARDI regrets AHRI's decision to negotiate and finalize such a significant agreement in isolation from the rest of the industry, but does believe that AHRI's actions were intended to be in the best interests of the HVAC industry.

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