Washington, D.C. — The nation’s leading manufacturers of residential central air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps today signed an historic, voluntary agreement with the nation’s leading energy efficiency advocacy organizations supporting new federal standards for those products. For the first time, the agreement calls for regional efficiency standards to replace a quarter-century of national standards, and it also recommends more stringent building code provisions for new construction.
The agreement for the first time sets different standard levels in three climate regions — North, South, and Southwest, recognizing that appropriate investments in heating and cooling efficiency depend on usage. Such regional standards are allowed under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
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 strikes a balance between the desire for greater state and regional flexibility and the need for a uniform marketplace, and looks to the nation’s long-term energy future by 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.
Between now and 2030, the agreement also will save 3.7 quadrillion Btu of energy nationwide, which is equivalent to all the energy consumed by approximately 18 million households in a single year, or enough to meet the annual energy needs of either Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, or Virginia. The new standards would raise the minimum efficiency of residential central air conditioning systems by about 8 percent and furnaces by about 13 percent, and would result in a 5 percent reduction of the total heating energy load and a 6 percent reduction of the total cooling energy load in 2030.
These energy savings will result in annual greenhouse gas emission reductions of 23 million metric tons of CO2 in 2030, an amount equal to that produced by approximately 4 million cars every year.
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.
The signatories agreed to submit their agreement jointly as a legislative proposal to Congress for inclusion in the energy legislation currently under consideration. The groups will also recommend that the Department of Energy promulgate a rule adopting the agreed-upon regions and efficiency standards.
“In addition to saving significant amounts of energy for the nation — and saving consumers considerable money, this agreement provides industry with greater certainty in the marketplace, which enables more investment, enhances global competitiveness, and preserves jobs,” said Stephen Yurek, President of the AHRI, the industry’s trade association.
Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE, observed, “We believe this proposal represents a large leap forward in improving our nation’s energy efficiency, while also reducing consumer energy bills and helping to clean our environment. Regional standards are a major step for cost-effective savings, and will help manufacturers meet the very different needs of homes in cold, hot-humid, and hot-dry climates.”
“We all know that constructing buildings efficiently ‘from the ground up’ is the best way to maximize savings of energy, money, and emissions,” said Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance. “This is particularly critical in homes, where heating and cooling typically account for the largest single chunk — about 40 percent — of monthly energy bills. So the building codes provision of today’s agreement is especially significant, as it allows states to adopt codes that will ensure major savings for new homeowners while also taking a bite out of global warming.”