On December 17, 2015 the U.S. Department of Energy ... announced ... new efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners and furnaces. Developed with industry, utilities, and environmental groups, these standards will save more energy than any other standard issued by the Department to date. Over the lifetime of the products, businesses will save $167 billion on their utility bills and carbon pollution will be reduced by 885 million metric tons.
During the Obama administration, the Department has finalized new efficiency standards for more than 40 household and commercial products, including commercial refrigeration equipment, electric motors, and fluorescent lamps, which will save consumers nearly $535 billion and cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 2 billion metric tons through 2030. Today’s announcement brings the Energy Department more than two-thirds of the way to achieving the goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons through standards set in the President’s first and second terms. This is equivalent to cutting more than a year’s carbon pollution from the entire U.S. electricity system.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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.
Commercial air conditioners, also known as rooftop units, are commonly used in low-rise buildings such as schools, restaurants, big-box stores and small office buildings. They cool about half of the total commercial floor space in the United States.
To finalize this standard, the Department convened 17 stakeholders, including major industry organizations, including the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute and Air Conditioning Contractors of America, along with some of the nation’s leading manufacturers, utilities, and efficiency organizations. Manufacturing new products will provide skilled jobs for American workers, garnering the support of labor leaders. These standards also come after years of industry innovation.
The Energy Department’s High Performance Rooftop Unit Challenge catalyzed several manufacturers to develop more efficient, cost-effective rooftop air conditioners. With these new units commercialized, the Department’s Advanced Rooftop Unit Campaign has spurred businesses to upgrade over 40,000 rooftop units by providing them with technical assistance throughout the process. The new standards will ensure all businesses have access to energy-saving air conditioners that lower their utility bills for years to come.
“Just days after the Paris agreement to cut global emissions and create a new era of affordable energy, today’s announcement marks the largest energy-saving standard in history and demonstrates that America is leading the effort to reduce energy costs and cut carbon emissions,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “This rule also shows that strong public-private partnerships can reap environmental and economic dividends and drive technology breakthroughs. These standards are a direct result of the Energy Department’s negotiated rulemaking process which brings diverse stakeholders to the negotiating table and supports industry innovation, demonstrating how government and business can work together to meet U.S. carbon reduction goals.”