New Federal Regulations Could Hurt HVAC, Frig Efficiency

July 25, 2014
New federal rules intended to combat climate change and improve efficiency could actually have the opposite effect, says AHRI. That’s because the federal government is moving too quickly and in some cases using faulty assumptions, over-estimating savings and requiring efficiency standards that are too high.

Of the 88 new rules from the federal Department of Energy since 2001, 40 have been enacted in the last three years and 22 in the last year as part of the federal Climate Action Plan. That’s all part of an effort to stem climate change as quickly as possible, given that Congress won’t take action.

While this may seem like good news for energy efficiency and climate change, the rules, especially intended to improve HVAC and refrigerator efficiency, have been enacted too quickly and may ultimately undermine efforts to combat climate change and bring more efficiency online.

That’s the word from Steve Yurek, president and CEO of the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute.

“The Climate Action Plan is an attempt to deliver through the EPA and DOE what Congress won’t do,” says Yurek. “It’s created a race to get rules finalized.” As a result, ACHR is seeing errors in the final rules.  What’s more, they’re overly ambitious and could lead to less energy efficiency, not more.

One of  the problems, he says, is that once the DOE issues a final rule, it’s nearly impossible to change it.

“They’re moving too quickly and some calculations are incorrect,” he says.

The rules in question often over-estimate energy savings or call for savings that manufacturers just can’t meet, he says. They’re also being enacted too quickly for manufacturers to keep up. For example, no products are on the market that meet the too-high efficiency standards in the commercial refrigerator ruling, he says. It covers 40 product categories and calls for the top energy saving technologies, rather than some of the technologies that yield lower savings but are available on the market.

“By overestimating energy savings, you won’t get the savings and it increases the costs of the products,” he says. “Rather than buying the products, people will repair instead of replace.”

The industry needs to slowly raise the energy efficiency floor to get people to buy the products, he argues.

In addition, the federal government should provide a transparent process that allows organizations like his to provide input.

“We want a transparent process where the analysis can be reviewed. We want to make sure the information is correct so the rules follow the mandates of the law. We also want the rules to be  technically feasible and economically justified,” he says.

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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