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DOE Issues Final Rule: Test Procedures for Central Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps

On November 9, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNOPR) to amend the test procedure for central air conditioners and heat pumps. That proposed rulemaking serves as the basis for the final rule. The final rule, in addition to satisfying the agency's obligation to periodically review its test procedures for covered equipment, amends specific certification, compliance, and enforcement provisions related to this product. In the final rule DOE makes the following amendments to the current test procedure: a new basic model definition as it pertains to central air conditioners and heat pumps and revised requirements for represented values; revised alternative efficiency determination methods; termination of active waivers and interim waivers; procedures to determine off mode power consumption; changes to the test procedure that would improve test repeatability and reduce test burden; and clarifications to ambiguous sections of the test procedure intended also to improve test repeatability and reproducibility Some of these amendments also include incorporation by reference of updated industry standards.

The effective date of this rule is July 8, 2016. The final rule changes will be mandatory for representations of efficiency starting December 5, 2016. The incorporation by reference of certain publications listed in this rule was approved by the Director of the Federal Register on July 8, 2016.

Summary of the Final Rule
This final rule clarifies aspects of DOE's test procedure for central air conditioners and heat pumps to improve the consistency and accuracy of the results generated when using that procedure. The rule primarily clarifies how to test for compliance with the current energy conservation standards. The rule also amends certain certification, compliance, and enforcement provisions. While the changes adopted in this rulemaking may impact test burden in certain cases, as discussed in section III.H.3, DOE has determined that this final rule will not change the measured energy efficiency of central air conditioners and heat pumps when compared to the current test procedure. Any proposed amendments that would change the measured energy efficiency will be addressed as part of the new appendix M1, in a separate notice, which will be used in conjunction with amended standards.

DOE revises the basic model definition, adds additional definitions for clarity, makes certain revisions to the testing requirements for determination of represented values, adds certain certification reporting requirements, revises requirements for determination of represented values, and adds product-specific enforcement provisions.

DOE updates requirements for Alternative Rating Methods (ARMs) used to determine performance metrics for central air conditioners and heat pumps based on the regulations for Alternative Efficiency Determination Methods (AEDMs) that are used to estimate performance for commercial HVAC equipment. Specifically, for central air conditioners and heat pumps, DOE makes the following amendments: (1) Revising the nomenclature regarding ARMs; (2) rescinding DOE's pre-approval of an ARM prior to use; (3) creating AEDM validation requirements; (4) revising the AEDM verification testing process; (5) specifying actions a manufacturer could take following a verification test failure; and (6) clarifying consequences to manufacturers for invalid represented values.

DOE revises the test procedure such that tests of multi-circuit products, triple-capacity northern heat pump products, and multi-blower products can be performed without the need of an interim waiver or a waiver. Existing interim waivers and waivers for these products, as applicable, regarding these products will terminate 180 days after publication of this final rule.

DOE also terminates the existing waivers for air-to-water heat pump products integrated with domestic water heating because, as discussed in section III.C.1, DOE has determined that these waivers are not valid because they do not provide a method for measurement of the efficiency metrics used to determine compliance with applicable standards.

DOE adopts test methods and calculations for off mode power that do not impact the measured energy with respect to the current energy conservation standard. Specifically, the adopted test procedure includes the following:
(1) Provision of an option to conduct the off mode tests in a temperature-controlled room rather than a psychrometric room;
(2) Elimination of ambient condition requirements for units whose off mode power consumption can be measured without control of ambient temperature;
(3) Alteration of the off mode multiplier for modulated compressors;
(4) Addition of requirements on the heating season off mode power measurement for units having a crankcase heater whose controls cycle or vary crankcase heater power over time;
(5) Clarification of test sample set-up and power measurement testing methodology and components;
(6) Addition of requirement to eliminate the time delay effect on the off mode power measurement; and
(7) Elimination of the condition where P2 is equal to zero in the off mode power consumption calculation.
In this final rule DOE also improves the repeatability/reproducibility and reduces the test burden of the test procedure. Specifically, DOE amends the following:
(1) Clarification of fan speed settings;
(2) Clarification of insulation requirements for refrigerant lines and addition of a requirement for insulating mass flow meters;
(3) Addition of a requirement to demonstrate inlet air temperature uniformity for the outdoor unit using thermocouples;
(4) Addition of a requirement that outdoor air conditions be measured using sensors measuring the air captured by the air sampling device(s) rather than the temperature sensors located in the air stream approaching the inlets;
(5) Addition of a requirement that the air sampling device and the tubing that transfers the collected air to the dry bulb temperature sensor be at least two inches from the test chamber floor, and a requirement that humidity measurements be based on dry bulb temperature measurements made at the same location as the corresponding wet bulb temperature measurements used to determine humidity;
(6) Clarification of maximum speed for variable-speed compressors;
(7) Addition of requirements that improve consistency of refrigerant charging procedures;
(8) Allowance of an alternative arrangement for cyclic tests to replace the currently-required damper in the inlet portion of the indoor air ductwork for single-package ducted units;
(9) Clarification of the proper supply voltage for testing;
(10) Revision of the determination of the coefficient of cyclic degradation (C D);
(11) Option for a break-in period of up to 20 hours;
(12) Update of references to industry standards where appropriate;
(13) Inclusion of information from the draft AHRI 210/240;
(14) Addition of provisions regarding damping of pressure transducer signals to avoid exceeding test operating tolerances due to high frequency fluctuations;
(15) Clarification of inputs for the demand defrost credit equation; and
(16) Improvement of test consistency associated with indoor unit air inlet geometry.

DOE also provides additional detail and specificity with respect to several provisions. Specifically, DOE adds reference to an industry standard for testing variable refrigerant flow multi-split systems; replaces the informative guidance table for using the test procedure; clarifies the definition of multi-split systems; clarifies the definition of mini-split systems, which DOE now calls multi-head mini-split systems; and clarifies the housing for uncased coils.

Lastly, DOE addresses comments received from stakeholders in response to the November 2015 SNOPR that were unrelated to any of DOE's proposals. Specifically, this includes the following:
(1) Water condensation metric;
(2) Barometric pressure correction ; and
(3) Inlet screen.

Given the difficulty of writing amendatory instructions to implement the many small changes throughout appendix M, DOE has provided a full re-print of appendix M in the regulatory text of this final rule.

DOE revises the test procedure in this final rule as reflected in the revised Appendix M to Subpart B of 10 CFR part 430 effective on July 8, 2016. The amended test procedure is mandatory for representations of efficiency as of December 5, 2016.

The docket, which includes Federal Register notices, public meeting attendee lists and transcripts, comments, and other supporting documents/materials, is available for review at regulations.gov. All documents in the docket are listed in the regulations.gov index. However, some documents listed in the index, such as those containing information that is exempt from public disclosure, may not be publicly available.

A link to the docket Web page can be found here. This Web page will contain a link to the docket for this notice on the regulations.gov site. The regulations.gov Web page will contain simple instructions on how to access all documents, including public comments, in the docket.

For further information on how to review the docket, contact Ms. Brenda Edwards at (202) 586-2945 or by email: Brenda.Edwards@ee.doe.gov.

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