Negotiated Rulemaking Results in Agreement on New Residential AC Efficiency Levels


Press release

January 20, 2016

Press contact: Andrew deLaski, Appliance Standards Awareness Project
(617) 363-9470 (office), (617) 515-7755 (cell),

Negotiated Rulemaking Results in Agreement on New Residential Air Conditioning Efficiency Levels

Washington, DC: An agreement reached among industry and energy efficiency advocates to increase the efficiency of central cooling systems passed an important milestone today in advance of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) developing a new energy-saving standard that could save consumers $38 billion. 

The Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee (ASRAC) approved an agreement for recommendations on a new standard for residential central air conditioning and heat pump efficiency levels that was developed by a DOE-formed working group.

About 60 percent of U.S. households have a central cooling system, and about 19 percent of those systems are heat pumps. Virtually all new homes are built with central air conditioning.

Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and ASRAC’s representative on the working group said, “The energy and bill savings from the recommended new central AC and heat pump standards will really add up for consumers and the nation. Savings will reach about 300 billion kilowatt-hours on sales over 30 years (enough to cool 150 million average homes for a year) and $38 billion in bill savings.”

“We are pleased to see that industry and environmental leaders have been able to come together yet again and reach an agreement that will benefit consumers, businesses, and employees for years to come,” said AHRI president and CEO Stephen Yurek. “We have always believed that the negotiated rulemaking process is the best way to establish workable, effective regulations, and this agreement once again proves that to be true.”

The agreement is the latest in a string of successfully negotiated energy efficiency standards completed by a diverse group of stakeholders including manufacturers, utility companies, efficiency advocates, state government representatives, contractors, distributors, and DOE itself. Other recent examples include commercial rooftop air conditioners and furnaces, and walk-in coolers.  

The proposal for improved AC and heat pump efficiency builds on previous consensus standards issued in 2011 and taking effect last year, and, before that, the very large improvements that took effect in 2006. Combined, these three rounds of improvements (effective in 2006, 2015 and, now, 2023) will raise central air conditioning and heat pump efficiency by about 50 percent over less than 20 years. 

“The latest update to the standards shows that sustained rates of improvement are possible even with products that have already seen major efficiency upgrades,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

“Today’s agreement is a big win for consumers and the environment, as well as for manufacturers who get long-term regulatory certainty,” said Meg Waltner, manager for building energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The new standards will add to the long history of savings for these products, resulting in billions of dollars of consumer savings while reducing electricity use and the harmful pollution associated with it. It’s a win all around.”

Once approved by DOE, the energy efficiency levels agreed to in the negotiations will go into effect January 1, 2023, but will be adjusted based on changes to product test procedures. Under the agreement (and using current test procedures), the efficiency level for residential central air conditioners under 45,000 Btu/hr would be 14 SEER in the North and 15 SEER in the Southeast and Southwest; for products over 45,000 Btu/hr, the levels would be 14.5 SEER in the Southeast and Southwest, and 14 SEER in the North. Heat pump efficiency levels would be set at 15 SEER for all regions.

Background and key facts

Some of the key elements of the term sheet, agreed to by the working group yesterday and approved by ASRAC today, are as follows:

  • Standards, effective January 1, 2023, will achieve at least 7 percent savings (changes to the test method and equipment rating will increase savings beyond the nominal change in SEER value).
  • Savings total about 300 million kWh over 30 years of sales, or roughly as much power as used by 27 million households in a year.
  • Based on today's electricity prices, the value of these savings will total about $38 billion in utility bill savings.
  • The recommended standards will:
    • Maintain the regional standards approach for central air conditioners, which first took effect last year. Higher standards are more cost effective in the South than in the North, and the regional standards reflect this difference.
    • Continue EER (energy efficiency ratio) in the Southwest region. This is a second efficiency metric that is important for peak demand savings in that region.
    • Continue with a single national standard for heat pumps.
    • Adopt important updates to the test method to make the test more representative of actual field conditions. These changes take effect with the new standards.
    • The term sheets approved today include standards adjustments to reflect test method changes.
    • The standards change is timed to correspond to the expected phase-out of refrigerants currently used in these products, a significant benefit and cost savings for manufacturers.

AC and HP efficiency levels *Southeast includes the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories.
** Southwest includes Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico

 Members of the Central Air Conditioners and Central Air Conditioning Heat Pumps Working Group

Southern Company; California Energy Commission; United Technologies; California Investor-Owned Utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and Southern California Gas Company); Lennox; Air Conditioning Contractors of America; Rheem Manufacturing Company; Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute; Johnstone Supply; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; Goodman Manufacturing; Ingersoll Rand; Natural Resources Defense Council; Appliance Standards Awareness Project; and the U.S. Department of Energy. (Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) stff contributed to the development of the test procedures.)


About ASAP

The Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) is a coalition that includes representatives of efficiency, consumer and environmental groups, utility companies, state government agencies, and others. Working together, the ASAP coalition seeks to advance cost-effective standards at the national and state levels through technical and policy advocacy and through outreach and education. ASAP’s founders include the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the Alliance to Save Energy, and Natural Resources Defense Council. Visit ASAP at

About AHRI

The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) is the trade association representing manufacturers of air conditioning, heating, commercial refrigeration, and water heating equipment. An internationally recognized advocate for the industry, AHRI develops standards for and certifies the performance of many of these products. AHRI’s 300+ member companies manufacture quality, efficient, and innovative residential and commercial air conditioning, space heating, water heating, and commercial refrigeration equipment and components for sale in North America and around the world. Visit AHRI at


The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a nonprofit organization that acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. Visit ACEEE at

About NRDC

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC. 

 Other contacts:  

Francis Dietz, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute
(703) 600-0355 (office), (703) 969-6444 (cell), 

Patrick Kiker, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
(202) 507-4043 (office),

Pat Remick, Natural Resources Defense Council
(202) 289-2411