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On March 11, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) celebrated a resolution in a two-year legal battle surround implementation and enforcement of regional standards for residential central air conditioners and non-weatherized furnaces. AHRI represents manufacturers of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, and water heating products. Its 300-plus member companies are divided into 39 product sections, which write standards that support 40 certification programs.
Back in September 2009, AHRI and efficiency advocates reached a consensus agreement for regional standards, and in 2010, requested that the Department of Energy (DOE) adopt the agreement. After a four-month comment period, DOE finalized a Direct Final Rule to establish the first-ever regional standards for central air conditioners and furnaces, as well as a strengthened national standard for heat pumps. Soon after, the American Public Gas Association (APGA) filed a Petition for Review on the rule with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that DOE went beyond its authority in establishing the standards through a Direct Final Rule.
The Petition for Review began a long road to an ultimate resolution in the lawsuit, which included a temporary fracturing of the industry. The Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International, and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) intervened on the side of APGA, and AHRI and energy efficiency advocates intervened on the side of DOE. The ongoing litigation created a great deal of uncertainty among all stakeholders, and AHRI member manufacturers awaited an outcome so they could plan production to comply with the standards while avoiding stranded inventory.
All parties involved in the lawsuit recognized an urgent need to find a resolution, and worked together to do so over the past several months. The settlement agreement is expected to be accepted by the court and end the litigation. Once accepted, the regional air conditioner and national heat pump standards will go into effect as scheduled on January 1, 2015, with an 18-month grace period—until July 1, 2016—for air conditioner standards, a move designed to avoid stranded inventory. The regional non-weatherized furnace standards will be vacated, and instead DOE will undertake a new rulemaking for those products. In addition, thanks to HARDI, DOE agreed to review and clarify the process by which direct final rules are promulgated. AHRI expects this to provide a clearer picture of DOE’s rulemaking process in the future, which will be beneficial to all.
In other news, AHRI recently hosted a conference to release results from its Low-Global Warming Potential Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (Low-GWP AREP). On January 16, nineteen technical experts presented findings from the first phase of a three-year research program. More than 150 people attended the event to hear from industry, academia, and national laboratories.
The program was developed to identify promising low-GWP alternative refrigerants for major product categories, including air conditioners, heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, dehumidifiers, chillers, ice makers, and refrigeration equipment. All of the conference presentations and test reports are available on AHRI’s website at www.ahrinet.org.
The program is beginning a second phase that will continue research in areas not previously addressed, including new refrigerants and applications and testing under high ambient conditions.