HVAC Efficiency Standards: When Will They be Raised?
Imagine replacing some of the technology that sits in your Wilmington-area home with whatever was its equivalent from your parents’ heyday. Today’s televisions, computers and telephones are far more reliable, versatile and energy efficient than models from two decades in the past. Yet federal HVAC efficiency standards today are at the same levels as they were in 1992.
The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) establishes rules in compliance with the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987. Minimum annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) standards of 78 percent began in 1992. DOE proposed in 2007 to raise AFUE minimums to 80 percent by 2015, which is modest since most gas furnaces already achieve at least 80 percent AFUE.
North and South
A consortium of efficiency proponents and furnace, heat pump and air conditioner manufacturers opposed the low threshold in court, advocating for higher HVAC efficiency standards. They suggested regional standards to acknowledge the South’s higher cooling needs and the North’s greater heating demand. DOE agreed in 2011 to 90 percent AFUE in residential gas furnaces for cold climates and 80 percent AFUE for units in warmer areas, effective May 2013.
Your Honor, I Object
Simply bumping HVAC energy efficiency standards is not so simple. To rise from 80 percent to 90 percent AFUE, condensing gas furnaces must replace non-condensing units. Higher HVAC efficiency standards mean consumers and contractors, when upgrading to a new model, must modify existing furnace ventilation and water heater components. Gas utilities and equipment distributors blocked DOE in court over that issue. The courts are reviewing the challenge, a process that could take years.
Regardless of to-be-determined legally minimal HVAC efficiency standards, the federal Energy Star program sets 95 percent AFUE standards for Northern regional gas furnaces. These are desired goals, not legal minimums. Look for Energy Star certification to save you money on equipment and fuel costs.
For more help understanding how energy efficiency affects your Wilmington area home, contact us at Sobieski Services, Inc. Our goal is to help educate our customers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC & plumbing systems).
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