The New Minimum Efficiency Standards The final rule on central air conditioners and heat pumps establishes the following minimum efficiency standards effective January 23, 2006: Product Classification Minimum Efficiency Split System and Single Package A/C 12.0 SEER Split System and Single Package HP 12 SEER / 7.4 HSPF Through-The-Wall Split A/C 10.9 SEER Through-The-Wall Split HP 10.9 SEER / 7.1 HSPF Through-The-Wall Package A/C 10.6 SEER Through-The-Wall Package HP 10.6 SEER / 7.0 HSPF In a rule published May 23 in the Federal Register, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) set a 12 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) standard for central air conditioners and a 7.4 Heating System Performance Factor (HSFP) for most central air conditioners and heat pumps to be manufactured for distribution in the U.S. beginning January 23, 2006. Under the rule, the efficiency level for through-the-wall units is valid for four years only. After January 23, 2010 the same efficiencies as split and package central systems will apply. DOE further limits the product class to through-the-walls with cooling capacities of 30,000 Btuh or less, that do not contain special weatherization features that would allow them to be installed totally outdoors, and that must be marked for installation only through an exterior wall. The final rule also establishes a separate product class for small duct high velocity (SDHV) systems. Efficiency standards for these products will be the subject of a separate rule expected to be published by the end of the year. The 20% increase in the minimum efficiency standard for residential central air conditioners and heat pumps is "fair to consumers and helpful to America in conserving electricity and reducing power plant emissions," according to William G. Sutton, president of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI). "DOE's standard is a win for consumers because it keeps this equipment affordable to everyone in all 50 states and higher efficiency helps reduce operating costs," says Sutton. "It is environmentally responsible because it encourages homeowners to replace lower efficiency equipment which reduces power plant emissions. And it is a win for older Americans and working families because a higher national standard would have discouraged purchase of this equipment which can save lives during killer heat waves." According to DOE, "The amended standards take into account a decade of technological advancements and will save consumers and the nation money, significant amounts of energy and have substantial environmental and economic benefits." The U.S. Senate supported a 12 SEER in a vote on May 25. During rulemaking proceedings at DOE, ARI advocated the 20% increase in the current standard, saying it was consistent with the law that requires adoption of an economically fair and technologically feasible standard. ARI said a national standard needed to be fair to all homeowners, including those who only use their units a few months a year, and that too high a national standard would discourage replacement of less efficient units and be counterproductive to DOE's goal of improving energy efficiency. The standard, according to DOE's estimate, will save approximately 3 quads of energy over 25 years (2006 through 2030). This is equivalent to all the energy consumed by nearly 17 million American households in a single year. In 2020, the standards will avoid the construction of three 400 megawatt coal-fired plants and nineteen 400 megawatt gas-fired plants. These energy savings would result in cumulative greenhouse gas emission reductions of approximately 24 million metric tons (Mt) of carbon, or an amount equal to that produced by approximately 2 million cars every year. DOE adds: Additionally, air pollution would be reduced by the elimination of approximately 80 thousand metric tons (kt) of nitrous oxides (NOX) from 2006 through 2020. In total, DOE estimates this standard will have a net benefit to the nation's consumers of $2 billion over the period 2006 through 2030." For more information, visit www.ari.org.