Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) today filed comments in opposition to a Department of Energy (DOE) Direct Final Rule which would regionalize air conditioners and furnaces and increase efficiency standards for those products in certain regions.

The Direct Final Rule came as the result of a negotiation between equipment manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates which excluded the input of HVAC distributors and contractors.

HARDI fears that the cost and responsibility
associated with compliance and enforcement
will befall HVACR distributors and contractors.

HARDI asks the DOE to withdraw the direct final rule and precede with the traditional rulemaking (NOPR) process which would allow for more analysis and stakeholder input.

Indicated in previous comments to DOE, HARDI asserts that support will only be offered to the proposed rule if planned increases in efficiency standards are economically justifiable. With these new comments HARDI maintains that stance, stating that the proposed rule is economically unjustified with the nation’s poor economic climate, an unprecedented drop in new home construction, a substantial decline in unitary sales of both air conditioners and furnaces since the last increase in national standards in 2006, and a reduction in consumer purchasing power.

“HARDI believes that the proposed rule will harm small businesses, jobs, and our industry as a whole at an already difficult time in terms of unitary equipment sales,” says HARDI EVP & C.O.O. Talbot Gee. “If the DOE proceeds with this ill-conceived and unjustified Direct Final Rule, they will be actively turning a blind eye to economic and practical realities," Gee says.

While the “consensus agreement” between the manufacturers and efficiency advocates which provides the basis for this DOE rule may provide some level of certainty for what models manufacturers may produce for the next 10 years, it adds significant uncertainty to how the rest of the industry will inventory, support, and sell these units.

HARDI’s concerns about the unknown costs associated with compliance and enforcement of the proposed rule make it impossible for the DOE to fully assess its economic impact without first finalizing an enforcement plan. HARDI fears that the cost and responsibility associated with compliance and enforcement will not fall on the manufacturers who negotiated the agreement, but on the many small businesses in the HVAC distribution and contract installation industry. HARDI has asked the DOE withdraw the direct final rule and move the rule to a NOPR with a combined, or concurrent, enforcement rulemaking.