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DOE Facilitates Market-Driven Solutions to Develop and Deploy New High-Efficiency Commercial Air Conditioners

Jointly-developed performance criteria to help businesses save money, improve economic competitiveness
Source: DOE

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has announced that the Department of Energy is joining with the private sector to support market-based efforts to develop and deploy next-generation high-efficiency air conditioners for commercial buildings.  As part of a voluntary program, the Department worked with members of the DOE Commercial Building Energy Alliances, including Target and Walmart, to develop new performance criteria for 10-ton capacity commercial air conditioners, also known as rooftop units (RTUs).  When built according to the requirements of the new specifications, these high-efficiency rooftop units are expected to reduce energy use by as much as 50-60 percent over the current equipment.  Commercial buildings account for 18 percent of U.S. energy use and include significant opportunities for energy and financial savings that can help American companies be more competitive on a global scale.

"One of the most cost-effective ways for businesses to save money and improve their economic competitiveness is to reduce the energy needed to power their commercial buildings and facilities," said Secretary Chu.  "The public-private efforts announced today are leveraging America's leadership in innovation to advance clean energy, support U.S. manufacturers and help a broad cross section of businesses become more competitive." 

To help achieve the best-in-class rooftop units requested by industry partners, DOE National Laboratories, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Lab, will provide technical assistance to manufacturers or developers who want to build the more efficient units.  Interested manufacturers will receive assistance in designing, constructing, measuring, and testing the new air conditioner units produced to this specification. 

Manufacturers nationwide have a strong motivation to produce the more efficient units, since Target, Walmart and other participating commercial building owners have expressed an interest in buying the new units if manufacturers can meet the new energy efficient specifications at an affordable price with the range of features the companies need.

The new performance criteria were developed by industry partners and facilitated by DOE technical assistance.  The rooftop units resulting from this specification will have an Integrated Energy Efficiency Rating (IEER) of 18 and use 50-60 percent less energy compared to the current ASHRAE 90.1-2010 standard, depending on location and facility type.  Nationwide, if all the 10-ton commercial units sold in a given year were built using these criteria, businesses could save about $50 million a year in energy costs.
Additionally, the units will include advanced controls that support automated communication and diagnostics, enabling wireless communication to the owners' automation systems and ensuring that the units operate at top energy and operational performance levels throughout their service life.

The Department of Energy and representatives from its Commercial Building Energy Alliances reached out to additional equipment suppliers, manufacturers, building owners and facility operators at the 2011 HVAC&R and Controls Supplier Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada eariler this month. The current list of participating private sector partners were announced at the supplier summit, and DOE looks forward to continuing to expand the group of companies involved.

The Commercial Building Energy Alliances are part of the Department of Energy's Building Technologies Program, which works to develop technologies, techniques, and tools for making buildings more energy efficient, productive, and affordable.  Through industry partnerships, the alliances aim to significantly improve the energy efficiency of new and existing commercial buildings. For more information on the Commercial Building Energy Alliances and to see all participating industry partners please visit the Commercial Building Energy Alliances website. Learn more about the Commercial Building Energy Alliances and other projects that are part of DOE's Building Technologies Program.

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