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HVAC Industry Concerns Not Addressed in DOE Final Rule
Mar 29, 2011
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The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) final rule amending and expanding the existing certification, enforcement, and compliance regulations for a number of consumer and commercial products has been published in the Federal Register. The published rule does not substantially address a number of concerns voiced by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).

The rule goes into effect July 5, 2011. Major provisions include:
• A reorganization of DOE's regulations by relocating all existing certification, compliance, and enforcement requirements into one section of the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) - 10 CFR 429.
• Expansion of the existing certification, compliance, and enforcement requirements to all covered equipment, both residential and commercial.
• Mandatory annual reporting of certification reports for all covered equipment. The reporting schedule will be aligned with the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) reporting schedule.

AHRI said it saw potential adverse effects of this rule on AHRI members met with DOE's General Counsel on Feb. 22, 2011. AHRI then provided a letter documenting its concern on March 16. AHRI requested that DOE reconsider the rule and conduct another rulemaking to address AHRI concerns, and agree not to enforce the existing rule in the meantime.

AHRI said that, if it cannot reach agreement with DOE, it will consider additional options, including working with Congress to disapprove the rule and, potentially, legal action.

AHRI explained that the final rule includes an annual certification reporting requirement. While such requirement has been in place for residential products since 1992 it is new for commercial products.

Starting Jul. 5, 2011, producers of commercial air-conditioning, heating, water heating, and refrigeration equipment now regulated by DOE will need to submit a certification report documenting that their products meet the federal minimum standards. The reports must be based on a statistically meaningful sampling procedure, which would require manufacturers to test a minimum of two units for each basic model to establish the ratings.

AHRI said manufacturers of these commercial products (with the exception of commercial refrigeration products and commercial ice makers) do not have to test every basic model if they use an Alternative Efficiency Determination Method (AEDM) to rate and certify their basic models. The AEDM must be derived from a mathematical model that represents the energy consumption characteristics of the basic model and must be validated against the tested performance of six or more basic models.

Serious issues noted by AHRI have to do with the basic model definition, the sampling test provisions, and the validation of the AEDMs. DOE did not change the basic model definition in the final rule, but it did state that all models identified in a certification report as being in the same basic model must have the same certified efficiency rating. This interpretation of the basic model definition is not consistent with most of the definitions of basic model groups used in the AHRI certification programs and would significantly increase the number of tests that manufacturers would have to conduct in order to comply with the regulation.

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