Energy efficiency standards issued recently for rooftop air conditioners and heat pumps–which represent the largest energy and pollution savings of any rule ever issued by the Department of Energy– will benefit businesses, manufacturers, and the environment, according to four of the organizations that participated in the negotiations leading to the announcement.
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute representing HVACR and water heating manufacturers, the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and Natural Resources Defense Council joined other stakeholders in the negotiations.
The new standards are expected to save 1.7 trillion kilowatt hours over 30 years of sales, or almost as much energy as created by all the coal burned in the United States to generate electricity in a year. Rooftop air conditioners cool about half the commercial floor space in the nation. DOE also set standards for commercial warm air furnaces, which are typically installed with the rooftop commercial air conditioners.
“DOE is ringing in the holiday season with truly monumental energy and economic savings,” said Andrew deLaski, ASAP executive director. “Huge energy bill savings, enormous emissions reductions, and a clear regulatory roadmap will spread good cheer to the businesses that pay cooling bills, to the environment, and to the manufacturers that make these products.”
Based on DOE’s estimates, the new rooftop air conditioner standards will save more energy and cut more emissions than any other standards completed by the agency, outpacing the previous record-setters that covered electric motors (2014) and fluorescent tube lamps (2009). DOE estimates that the new standards will save businesses as much as $50 billion in energy costs.
Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of AHRI, praised the DOE-convened negotiation process that brought together 17 stakeholders, including representatives of individual manufacturers, installers, utilities, environmental groups, and efficiency organizations. “The consensus agreement provides our members with certainty while providing benefits for consumers and businesses.”
“As in Paris, when the community of nations made history by banding together to fight climate change, these historic efficiency standards were the result of an accord reached by stakeholders who set aside their competing interests for the common good,” said NRDC President Rhea Suh. “These are very, very promising days in the global fight to slow, stop, and reverse climate change, the central environmental challenge of our time.”
Steve Nadel, executive director of ACEEE said, “These standards are a game-changer for the commercial sector. Industry and advocates worked closely together to help produce the biggest energy savings standards in U.S. history. These new standards will bring down the cost of doing business and improve bottom lines by letting companies invest money they used to spend on heating and cooling. This will in turn stimulate the economy, create jobs, and bring us closer to the finish line of the President’s climate goals for appliance standards.”
Rooftop air conditioners are typically found on low-rise buildings such as big box stores, schools, apartment buildings, restaurants, and offices. The new standards would net a typical building owner between $4,200 and $10,100 over the life of a single rooftop air conditioner. Moreover, unlike a typical household that has just one central air conditioning unit, commercial spaces have multiple units, and therefore may enjoy bigger savings. A typical big box store, for example, often has over 20 units–and that’s just one building among millions of commercial facilities across the country.
The rooftop air conditioner standards will take effect in two phases, increasing minimum efficiency by about 10 percent as of January 1, 2018, and by 25-30 percent as of January 1, 2023. Standards for new warm air furnaces that are typically installed as a unit with a commercial air conditioner also become effective in 2023.