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Availability, Affordability of Residential Heating and Cooling Rests in DOE’s Hands This Week

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has until Thursday, October 27, 2011 to determine whether to prohibit the availability of affordable heating and cooling systems in areas most in need.

In a bureaucratic procedure under protest from 40 industry, consumer, and energy interests, DOE announced June 27, 2011 its intent to ban the most affordable heating equipment in the northern US states, and the most affordable cooling equipment in the southern US states. Public comments on the agency’s intent had to be filed by October 17, 2011 and DOE is required it declare whether it will listen to comments filed in opposition and open a more formal process for determining the fate of these systems, or to ignore opposition comments and proceed to enacting these bans.

Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) is just one of many organizations who filed comments opposing the DOE’s plan to ban these products. "There is no way to avoid the inevitable conclusion should DOE proceed with ignoring warnings from us and many others, that it won’t be long before a family in Boston, Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, or any other northern city realizes they can no longer afford to replace their furnace when their old one failed in the dead of winter", said Jon Melchi, HARDI’s Manager of Government Affairs and lead on this issue.

Opposition comments filed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the only national organization representing professional installers of HVAC systems, clearly outlined that DOE’s plan would significantly increase replacement costs for homeowners whose homes were not originally designed for today’s high-efficiency furnaces; furnaces which would become the only available furnace if DOE doesn’t change its current course. In southern US states, DOE intends to ban the most affordable central air-conditioning systems, systems whose minimum standards were already ramped up by 30% just five years ago by the same agency. Since then, the HVAC industry has seen a 40% decline in cooling equipment sales, and the installation cost of new units remain several thousand dollars more than what it was in 2005 before the last standards increase.

"If the DOE proceeds with this ill-conceived and unjustified Direct Final Rule, they will be actively turning a blind eye to obvious economic and practical realities," said HARDI EVP & C.O.O. Talbot Gee.

DOE’s plan to ban these products is based on an agreement bilaterally negotiated by a handful of equipment manufacturers and environmental advocacy groups. Those expected to purchase, sell, install, or support these products were not part of plan’s design or development, and DOE has until October 27, 2011 to correct what would be a massive economic, safety, and energy mistake.

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