ARE YOU READY? Commercial Package Rooftop Unit Regulatory Changes Are Coming!

Welp! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is at it again. But it should come as no surprise, right? Every few years we see higher and higher minimum efficiencies for all types of heating and cooling equipment. And truthfully, it’s the way it should be isn’t it? With technology doubling about every 18 months, it’s only fair that the HVAC industry plays its part to innovate and help create a better, more sustainable planet earth. In 2016, based on a study done by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (eia), commercial buildings in the U.S. consumed an estimated 13.4 trillion btu’s of energy. Whoosh! No wonder the DOE has some big changes coming!

The 30,000-foot view of what to expect from the DOE in the next 6 years:

  • 10%  increase in minimum efficiency in 2018
  • 25-30% increase in minimum efficiency in 2023

The DOE is also making a change in what “units” they are going to hold manufacturers accountable to these new minimum efficiencies; IEER. Most of you are probably familiar with IEER, but for those of you who aren’t, here is a 30 second crash course. IEER stands for Integrated Energy Efficiency Ratio. Similar to how SEER is calculated for residential equipment, the purpose of IEER is to get a more accurate efficiency rating for a piece of equipment averaged over an entire cooling season, not just on the hottest one or two hours of the year.

How it is calculated:

IEER for air cooled equipment = (0.02 x A) + (0.617 x B) + (0.238 x C) + (0.125 x D)

  • A = Efficiency (EER) at 100% net capacity at AHR standard condition (95 degF)
  • B= EER at 75% net capacity and reduced ambient (81.5 degF)
  • C= EER at 50% net capacity and reduced ambient (68 degF)
  • D= EER at 25% net capacity and reduced ambient (65 degF)
  • EER = Energy Efficiency Ratio = Total cooling capacity (in btuh) / Power Input (in KW)

Now that you are a resident expert on IEER, let’s move on to some code changes coming at the state and local level.

If you are well versed in design/build type projects in the Midwest, you are probably very aware that this part of the country is slower than a three-toed sloth when it comes to making energy code compliance changes (I know what you’re thinking, go ahead and google it). For example, Lenexa is still operating under the 2006 IECC. Yep, 2006, when the iPhone didn’t even exist yet and Facebook required you to have a college email address to sign up. So, as exciting as it is to look ahead at what’s coming, just remember- the midwest is undifferentiated from a three-toed sloth (have you googled it yet? Better yet, youtube it. Do it now.)

The 30,000-foot view of what’s coming with both ASHRAE 90.1-2013 and 2015 IECC:

  • Two stage fan on cooling units 65,000 btu/h or larger (anything BIGGER than 5 tons).
  • Two stages mechanical cooling on units 65,000 btu/h or larger (anything BIGGER than 5 tons).
  • VAV units are required to have 3 stages of mechanical cooling from 65,000 btu/h-240,000 btu/h (6-20 tons)
  • VAV units are required to have 4 stages of mechanical cooling on units greater than 240,000 btu/s (Greater than 20 tons)
  • Economizers: Fault detection and diagnostics + leakage less than or equal to 4 cfm/sq.ft. at 1.0” WC 

To check whether or not your state has adopted a set of state-wide codes, you can go here and select which state your project will be in:

For the more local level, I’ve found its fastest just to do a quick google search, for example: “Overland Park IECC Building Codes”. The first result should be what you’re looking for.

So, what does all of this mean to you? If you’re a manufacturer it means change is coming QUICKLY, since most don’t deal with just us midwesterners (I’m not going to make the reference again, but you get the idea). If you are a distributor or contractor, it means change is definitely coming, but there is time for this to sink in and come up with a game plan. If you are an owner, this all means GREAT things. Higher IEER’s means lower energy bills. Two stage fan means better comfort and humidity control. Fault Detection and Diagnostics means better monitoring of outside air. Will this all come at a higher cost to the owner? Absolutely, but for the most part, there will be a quick payback. VFD’s for example, are paying back in 3-5 years for MOST 2 thru 4 stage machines.

And what does this mean if you’re an investor? Maybe it means it’s time to buy stock in some VFD companies. But don’t take my word for it.

What are YOUR thoughts? How do you think these changes will affect our industry and your business? We’d love to hear from you!
Brad Telker
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