President Obama's Most Important Energy Efficiency Standard Unveiled

Just in time for winter, the U.S. Department of Energy released a standard to make heating and cooling in commercial buildings far more efficient, increasing minimum efficiency by 10 to 25 percent.

2 minute read

December 21, 2015, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


On Dec. 17, the Department of Energy (DOE) released an energy rule that "is described as the 'largest energy-saving standard in history' and one that 'will save more energy than any other standard issued by the Department to date' — a standard governing commercial air conditioners and furnaces," writes Chris Mooney, who reports on energy and the environment at The Washington Post.

Depending on the type of air conditioning and heating equipment, compliance dates range from 2018 to 2023, according to the proposed rule [see pages 10-11 of PDF].

The standards contained in the recommendations apply to all equipment listed in Table I-1 manufactured in, or imported into, the United States starting on the dates shown in that table.

The new standards are noteworthy not only for the energy they will save and the emissions they will reduce, but the collaborative process that established them.

“These standards are a game-changer for the commercial sector,” said Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “Industry and advocates worked closely together to help produce the biggest energy savings standards in US history."

"Based on DOE’s estimates, the new rooftop air conditioner standards will save more energy and cut more emissions than any other standards completed by the agency, outpacing the previous record-setters that covered electric motors (2014) and fluorescent tube lamps (2009)," states the ACEEE press release.  

DOE estimates that the new standards will save businesses as much as $50 billion in energy costs. DOE also set standards for commercial warm air furnaces, which are typically installed with the rooftop commercial air conditioners.

The rooftop air conditioner standards will take effect in two phases, increasing minimum efficiency by about 10% as of January 1, 2018, and by 25–30% as of January 1, 2023. Standards for new warm air furnaces that are typically installed as a unit with a commercial air conditioner also become effective in 2023. 

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz also noted in a press release the timing of the landmark energy efficiency standard with the new climate accord that 195 nations agreed to on December 12.

“Just days after the Paris agreement to cut global emissions and create a new era of affordable energy, today’s (Dec. 17) 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 Moniz.

Thursday, December 17, 2015 in The Washington Post

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