The Air-conditioning Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) hosted a joint press conference with leading environmental and energy efficiency advocacy groups to formally sign an unprecedented agreement that would establish regionalized efficiency standards on residential split system air conditioners and gas furnaces. The agreement is intended to head off a Department of Energy rulemaking on these products set to be proposed later this year that AHRI's leadership believed was going to be overly aggressive by potentially involving three cooling regions and two different heating regions. The AHRI agreement establishes the basis for three regions along state lines. The first would be all states north of the 5,000 heating degree day (HDD) line with an unchanged split system air conditioning standard at 13 SEER and a higher gas furnace standard of 90% AFUE. A southeastern region with states east of New Mexico and south of the 5,000 HDD line would have a res idential split system air conditioning standard of 14 SEER and gas furnace standard of 80% AFUE. A southwestern region consisting of California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico would also have a gas furnace standard of 80% AFUE, but would have multiple efficiency standards on split system air conditioners of 14 SEER, 12.2 EER on systems less than 45,000 Btu/h and 14 SEER, 11.7 EER on systems greater than 45,000 Btu/h and less than 65,000 Btu/h. National standards for split and packaged air source heat pumps, weatherized furnaces, oil furnaces, and packaged air conditioners will also increase (with an EER standard established in the southwestern region). The new non-weatherized furnace standards will take effect in 2013 and all other standards changes will take effect in 2015.

HARDI will release a more detailed summary of this significant agreement soon, but felt it was important to immediately communicate its most significant points to our members. HARDI learned of these negotiations in mid-August and immediately expressed concerns to AHRI about their unilateral negotiations on an agreement which conflicted with every major policy position of the industry regarding appliance standards. A small HARDI delegation was invited to meet with AHRI's Unitary Products Section (equipment manufacturers) to hear a detailed summary of the agreement under terms of strict confidentiality. We questioned AHRI's decision to enter into these negotiations without the input and involvement of any other industry stakeholders such as distributors or contractors and stressed that regionalized efficiency standards would arguably affect HVAC distributors and border state contractors more than equipment manufacturers. Despite these and a host of other concerns from H ARDI and ACCA, AHRI remained committed to finalizing this agreement on their own. When their negotiations were complete, they invited HARDI and ACCA to show industry consensus by participating in today's signing ceremony.

HARDI declined to sign the agreement because it signaled a complete reversal of every industry policy position of the last three plus years and because AHRI was unwilling to provide assurances that they would not enter into future "consensus" agreements unilaterally on the next phase of implementation and enforcement of this agreement or any other future agreements affecting other industry stakeholders. HARDI will take a proactive leadership position in the enforcement and compliance aspect of this agreement, and retains the right to advocate against all or portions of the agreement (to be determined by the HARDI membership in the coming months) as the signatories attempt to advance legislation to implement the terms of the agreement.

HARDI regrets AHRI's decision to negotiate and finalize such a significant agreement in isolation from the rest of the industry, but does believe that AHRI's actions were intended to be in the best interests of the HVAC industry. The details and implementation of this unprecedented agreement will undoubtedly be the center of many discussions leading up to and at the HARDI Fall Conference later this month, and is a large reason why AHRI's President, Steve Yurek, will be participating in the HVAC Systems & Equipment Council session on Tuesday, November 3 in Orlando.

Every HARDI member will have ample opportunity to contribute to HARDI's efforts on this important issue and all distributor members are welcomed to join the Residential A/C and HP Rulemaking Task Force that was formed last year to represent HARDI throughout the DOE's rulemaking on these covered products. Click here to contact HARDI if you would like to be added to this task force and look for more detailed information on this AHRI agreement in the very near future.