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AHRI Finds Good and Bad in DOE Rule
Jun 17, 2011
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The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) praised part of the Direct Final Rule released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) establishing the first-ever regional standards for central air-conditioners and furnaces, as well as strengthened national standards for heat pumps. The new rules are based on a joint recommendation filed with DOE by AHRI and several energy efficiency advocacy groups in 2009.

"The agreement on which the new DOE rule is based is another great example of industry and advocacy groups collaborating to save energy and improve the environment, said Stephen Yurek, President and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), one of the organizations that negotiated the agreement.

Yurek had strong reservations, however, about the rule's limits on stand-by power for the products covered by the rule. He called the stand-by power limits "a cause of great concern to our members" and said AHRI was consulting with members on a course of action with regard to the limits.

AHRI said that once the standards in the rule are implemented, a typical new air-conditioner in the South will use about 40% less energy, and a typical new furnace in the North will use about 20% less than one sold before national standards were established in the late 1980s. According to DOE, the updated air-conditioner and heat pump standards will save enough electricity over 30 years to meet the total energy needs of 8.7 million typical American homes for a year. The new furnace standards will save about 31 billion therms over 32 years, or enough natural gas over the same period to heat 62 million typical American homes. (One therm is equal to 96.7 cubic feet of natural gas). The new standards will save U.S. consumers more than $13 billion between their effective dates and 2030.

Bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this year also included standards based on the groups' 2009 agreement.

Even with DOE's announcement, a bill will still be needed because an additional key provision of the agreement can only be done via legislation. It would allow states to include even higher minimum efficiency levels for heating and cooling systems in their building codes for new construction. The Senate bill also includes standards for several other AHRI products based on similar consensus agreements.

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