On Aug. 2, we presented the eighteenth installment of our E360 Webinar series. While many of the topics explored here previously dealt with commercial refrigeration, this latest Webinar explored the many impacts of energy efficiency and refrigerant regulations in the commercial HVAC industry. Presented by David Hules, director of commercial marketing for the air conditioning business, the Webinar took a closer look at the two primary forces shaping the regulatory landscape: the Department of Energy’s (DOE) new energy efficiency minimums and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) phase-down initiative on high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.
With HVACR consuming roughly 50 percent or more of all energy in U.S. commercial buildings and homes, it’s no surprise that many of the trends driving the HVAC industry are geared toward providing solutions that deliver the most energy-efficient components, systems and buildings. Green building methodologies, whether LEED or net zero, are taking a whole-building approach to achieve energy efficiencies with particular attention to:
- Ventilation and air quality
- Commissioning and monitoring for buildings
- Coordination of building subsystems
Hules reviewed the current status of energy efficiency code adoption and how it is now determined on a state level using existing versions of the ASHRAE 90.1 standard. The most recent (and most stringent) version of this code, ASHRAE 90.1-2013/2015 IECC, has only been adopted by a handful of states to date. But, based on the DOE’s recent ruling, the IEER (integrated energy efficiency rating) portion of the ASHRAE 90.1-2013 revision of the standard will be mandated nationally on Jan. 1, 2018, on rooftop and/or packaged systems. Hules then explained that this is the first step in a two-phased approach by the DOE, with the second increase in IEER levels coming in 2023.
To meet these increasing efficiency targets, Hules described how new systems will achieve higher part load efficiencies via a number of potential technology levers, including:
- Multi-speed blower and condenser fans
- Energy-efficient, modulating scroll compression solutions
- Larger coil heat exchangers
- Improved electronic controls
On the refrigerant side of the equation, Hules explained that the EPA’s efforts are part of a global phase-down on HFCs — one that will introduce new low-GWP refrigerants to achieve these phase-downs. The most likely alternatives to replace today’s high-GWP refrigerants are all classified as A2L, or mildly flammable. While these will reduce GWP into the 400–675 range, building code standards must be revised before their use in HVAC applications. To that end, Hules said that feasibility studies and revisions to key standards are currently underway.
OEMs are already preparing for the emergence of A2L alternatives by manufacturing new systems to meet regional requirements or application-dependent criteria. The convergence of the EPA and DOE regulations will present OEMs with the option to approach compliance with each regulation separately, or combine their efforts into a single design cycle. Hules said that while OEMs will ultimately need to produce regulatory-compliant systems, they should also strive to create products that minimize complexity for customers.
To learn more about these regulatory impacts on the commercial HVAC industry, you can view this Webinar.