The EPA periodically updates energy efficiency requirements for Energy Star products. They do this if new technologies have led to additional opportunity for consumers to save with energy efficient equipment.
The EPA released the 2nd draft of new requirements for furnaces on December 2nd, 2010, and the draft Final is expected in February 2011. The new requirements should take effect at the end of 2011. EPA has proposed raising AFUE requirements, but only for states where the majority of people live in colder climates. That means that an Energy Star furnace in Minnesota will be more efficient than an Energy Star furnace in Texas. Units that only qualify in warmer states will have a specific Energy Star label. When units start qualifying for the new specification, contractors should start to see the new Energy Star furnace label on some units. The label could be on units as soon as March 2011.
The EPA is also currently developing a Climate Control specification. The Climate Control specification replaces the former Energy Star programmable thermostat specification. Climate Controls do the same thing as programmable thermostats, but better.
The EPA is working on the requirements now, and should finish around the end of 2011. Look for Energy Star labeled controls starting in the spring and summer of 2012. To earn the Energy Star label, units will be tested by a group of users conducting routine tasks like setting the time and the temperature. Under this new specification, Climate Controls will also be able to communicate with something outside the HVAC system, like the internet or a smart meter. The EPA is working towards making the whole HVAC system work better together, rather than making each component more efficient. Most consumers could save a couple hundred dollars a year if their HVAC system was well installed and maintained. Consumers rely on contractors to install and maintain their HVAC equipment, and EPA relies on contractors for this as well. Furnaces, central ACs, and heat pumps can aid system efficiency too, by including self-diagnostics that warn owners of the need for maintenance, repair, or replacement. A few product lines currently offer some of these features and it’s expected to increase in the near future. With equipment generally being more efficient, EPA expects to require different efficiency standards in different states for other HVAC equipment as well, based on climate.