The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently published new energy conservation standards for residential furnace fans, which it says will help reduce carbon pollution by up to 34 million metric tons and save Americans more than $9 billion in home electricity bills through 2030. Critics of the rule argue the DOE is placing an undue burden on the HVAC industry by regulating components of appliances that already meet energy-efficiency guidelines, and that consumers will be harmed by the higher cost of the new furnaces.
Manufacturers will initially bear the brunt of this change, as they will need to redesign their furnace lines in order to comply with the new standard, which takes effect in 2019. While it is still too early to tell how much that will cost, it will likely be significant, noted Francis Dietz, vice president of public affairs, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). “We believe that regulating individual components is a step in the wrong direction. Instead, we should be moving in the other direction — considering the overall efficiency of systems rather than components.”
The new furnace fan standard is a first for the DOE, which, up until now, has regulated the system-based performance of HVAC units, not the energy efficiency of individual components. This is a concern, said Dietz, because the regulation of a component seems to be contrary to the basic concept of a minimum-efficiency standard for the product. “It also reduces the manufacturer’s flexibility in determining how a model will comply with the standard.” Furnaces are already tested for gas efficiency (AFUE) and electrical efficiency (SEER) as part of a total system analysis (Energy Star), and additional standards on power usage or individual components are unnecessary and will place an undue burden on manufacturers, said Shawn Laskoski, vice president of product management, Ingersoll Rand . “The standards themselves could limit the opportunity to differentiate and innovate as you see manufacturers currently doing today.”
Karen Meyers, vice president of government affairs, Rheem Mfg. Co. , agrees, noting that “adding efficiency standards for components of a product and having to ensure the product meets an overall efficiency standard increases the test requirements, which hinders our ability to utilize design resources to focus on new, innovative products that may actually offer more. HVAC Service: Evaporator Coil Replacement NORDYNE is Now Nortek Global HVAC.