First Regional Energy-Saving Standards for ACs and Furnaces Set by US Department of Energy

It seems fairly obvious that Indiana weather is very different than the weather in Miami, Florida or Seattle, Washington. The requirements for a furnace (if there is one) or air conditioner in a Miami home are certainly different than those for a home in Indianapolis or Seattle. But up until now, there were no federal standards set with regional needs in mind. That’s about to change.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the first-ever regional energy efficiency 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 a diverse coalition of consumer, manufacturing and environmental groups in 2009.

According to Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). “Until now, we’ve had one-size-fits-all national standards. These new, regional standards are a major breakthrough that will benefit consumers and the environment.”

“These standards are a triple win: a win for consumers, a win for public health and a win for the environment,” said David Goldstein, energy program co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Under the new standards, air conditioners will still keep homes cool on hot summer days but will use less electricity, particularly during high demand days. This will lower electricity bills and the potential for brownouts and blackouts and will also reduce the amount of deadly air pollution that causes ‘ozone alert’ or ‘red alert’ days that can lead to serious health problems and even premature death. Furnaces and heat pumps that meet the new standards will heat homes using less energy, while lowering energy prices for all consumers due to decreased demand.”

Once the latest updated standards take effect, 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 before national standards were established in the late 1980s.

According to the DOE’s analysis:

  • Improvements to the air conditioner and heat pump standards will save 156 billion kilowatt hours of electricity over 30 years, or about enough to meet the total electricity needs of all the households in Indiana for three years, while delivering net savings of more than $4.2 billion to U.S. consumers.
  • The new furnace standards will save 31 billion therms of natural gas, or about enough natural gas over 32 years to heat all the homes in New York State for more than 11 years and save consumers $14.5 billion.

The new furnace standards will begin in May 2013 and the new air conditioner and heat pumps standards in January 2015. The original national furnace standards took effect in 1992; these new rules are the first update since. National standards for air conditioners and heat pumps first took effect in 1992, and a previous DOE update became effective in 2006.

“With summer approaching, the high cost of energy is once again on consumers’ minds as their air conditioning needs increase,” says Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE. “These new standards continue a long-term trend that has dramatically raised the efficiency of these essential products, delivering huge benefits for consumers.”

Read the DOE Report “Energy Conservation Program: Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Furnaces and Residential Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps(PDF opens in new window)

Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning salutes all those involved in establishing these new regional standards and having them made law. Anyone with an understanding of how our bureaucracy works knows how difficult a task it must have been. We believe that these new guidelines are a giant step forward for the country’s initiative to conserve energy and reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.