That boom you may have heard at the end of 2015 was the Department of Energy Appliance and Equipment Standards Program sending the year out with historic new efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners and furnaces. The new standards are expected to save 1.7 trillion kilowatt-hours over 30 years of sales, or almost as much energy as one year’s worth of coal generation in the United States.
Tons of savings
Rooftop air conditioners cool about half the commercial floor space in the nation. The DOE also set standards for commercial warm air furnaces, which are typically installed with the rooftop commercial air conditioners. Over the lifetime of the products, the standards will save businesses $167 billion on their utility bills and reduce carbon pollution by 885 million metric tons.
According to DOE estimates, the new rooftop air conditioner standards will save more energy and cut more emissions than any other standards completed by the agency. The previous record-setters were the 2014 standards that covered electric motors and the 2009 fluorescent tube lamp standards.
(Graph by Appliance Standards Awareness Project)
Representatives of individual manufacturers, installers, utilities, environmental groups and efficiency organizations actively contributed to the development of the standards. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy , the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) and the National Resource Defense Council were among the 17 stakeholder groups participating in the Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee (ASRAC).
ASRAC uses negotiated rule-making to engage all interested parties, gather data and attempt to reach consensus on establishing energy-efficiency standards. The proof of the process is in the savings—about 5 billion metric tons of emissions in 2014—and in the support for its work. In an interview with UtilityDive , Marianne DiMascio of ASAP observed that the work of the committee often goes unnoticed because it is largely uncontroversial—a rare thing for a government agency in today’s political climate. “It doesn’t always make for exciting news to say there’s a policy that many people agree with, that is having a huge impact, and it’s about the type of motor your air conditioner uses [or the amount of insulation on a water heater],” she said.
These new commercial air conditioning and furnace standards will occur in two phases. The first phase will begin in 2018 and will deliver a 13-percent efficiency improvement in products. Five years later, an additional 15-percent increase in efficiency is required for new commercial units.