The heating and air conditioning industry may be in for a major shake-up in 2015. Tuesday’s Federal Register included potential new rules from the Consumer Product Safety Commission that would affect energy standards for HVAC systems. The proposed regulations would join several others affecting the HVAC industry this year.
According to the Federal Register, the Department of Energy is considering tightening the energy conservation standards for single package vertical air conditioners and heat pumps. The proposed rule would impose stricter standards on single package vertical HVAC devices with cooling capacities of less than 65,000 Btu per hour. By 2019, these products would have to meet energy efficiency ratios of 11. The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule.
The Environmental Protection Agency has also been active in HVAC regulation this year. They’ve already reduced the production of R22 or Freon refrigerant, which is thought to have a damaging effect on the ozone layer when used to cool the air in air conditioners. The EPA hopes to eliminate the refrigerant altogether over time, and by 2020, virgin R22 production and importation will be banned altogether.
As damaging as it may be, R22 has been the go-to refrigerant for the HVAC industry for decades. It’s cheap and effective, and alternatives are scarce. Several manufacturers use R410a or Puron, but Puron is also on the list of refrigerants that cause global warming, and it also requires the purchase of new equipment.
“The only viable alternative we currently have for R22 is R410a. This requires replacing the equipment as the old equipment will not operate on R22. The good news is with the efficiency ratings of today’s equipment your new system will pay for itself in energy savings,” says Bo Thomas, President, Thomas HVAC. “We opted to cease installing the less efficient systems using R22 many years ago, before the mandates from the EPA came into effect. We are always looking for the highest value to present to our customers and when today’s energy efficient systems are installed correctly they keep homes more comfortable and at a lower cost than operating and maintaining older inefficient systems.”
Consumers are being advised to replace systems that use R22 because the cost for refrigerant will only rise as restrictions tighten, making certain repairs skyrocket in price. Though keeping an old system working instead of buying a new one was effective in the past, it may become less practical when the restrictions kick in.
Fortunately, the 2015 Lincoln Electric System Sustainable Energy Program (SEP) is set to begin this week. The SEP will provide $4 million total in incentives to consumers who install energy-efficient HVAC equipment. The fund will also be more user-friendly, so consumers can access the various benefits easily.