Office of the General Counsel

Regional Standards Enforcement: Q&As

February 27, 2018

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Regional Standards Enforcement: Q&As

Below is a selection of questions frequently posed to DOE’s Office of Enforcement with respect to central air conditioners and heat pump systems installed in locations subject to regional energy conservation standards.  If you have additional questions or would like clarification on any of the below, please forward your questions to EnergyEfficiencyEnforcement@hq.doe.gov.

What is a regional standard, and to what do regional standards apply?

A regional standard is an energy conservation standard that applies to single-split central air conditioners installed in certain “regions” of the U.S.  There are two “regions” in the U.S. with respect to energy conservation standards: (1) the “southern region,” which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; and (2) the “southwest region,” which includes Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico. 

Regional standards apply only to single-split system central air conditioners installed in the specified states.  A single-split system central air conditioner installed outside of the above-defined regions must meet a minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (“SEER”) standard of 13.  However, if the unit is installed in one of these regions, it must meet a SEER minimum of 14.  If a complete system is installed, the system must be certified to DOE as a combination compliant with the regional standard(s).

Do regional standards apply to heat pumps?

No.  Regional standards do not apply to single-split air conditioning heat pumps.  Heat pumps manufactured on or after January 1, 2015, must meet the 14 SEER standard regardless of where within the U.S. the unit is installed.

Heat pump manufacturers (including importers) are responsible for ensuring that each model of heat pump distributed in the U.S. complies with all applicable Federal energy conservation standards.  Energy conservation standards applicable to heat pumps are determined by the date of manufacture (including import), not the date or location of installation.  For example, a unit of a heat pump manufactured (including imported) prior to January 1, 2015, is subject to the energy conservation standards in effect for heat pumps prior to that date, even if sold and/or installed after that date, and regardless of where the unit is eventually installed.

As a residential HVAC contractor in a state subject to DOE regional energy conservation standards for split-system central air conditioners, can I replace only the outdoor unit, without replacing the entire system?

Yes.

A contractor may replace only the outdoor unit if:

1.  The outdoor unit model is certified to DOE in one or more combinations that comply with the energy conservation standard(s) applicable at the location in which the unit is installed; and

2.  The outdoor unit model is not certified to DOE or otherwise represented by the manufacturer in any combination that does not meet an energy conservation standard applicable in the location at which the unit is installed.

That means that the outdoor unit has to be certified to DOE as meeting the regional standard in some combination but not necessarily when paired with the indoor unit that currently exists in the home.

Is the homeowner liable if a contractor installs a central air conditioner that does not comply with DOE’s energy conservation standards?

No, a homeowner is not liable to DOE for a contractor’s installation of a noncompliant central air conditioner system.  In fact, if a noncompliant unit or system is installed, the homeowner may be able to obtain replacement of the noncompliant unit or system with a compliant unit or system, at no cost to the homeowner.  See 10 C.F.R. § 429.154(a).  If a homeowner believes that a noncompliant unit or system has been installed, the homeowner may contact DOE at EnergyEfficiencyEnforcement@hq.doe.gov to determine whether this is the case.

How do I know if a condensing unit or split-system central air conditioning combination has been certified to DOE as compliant with applicable energy conservation standards?

To determine whether a combination has been certified to DOE, visit eeCompass, select Browse & Compare Products, and then select Air Conditioners under Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning or go directly to the Air Conditioners listing.