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Update on Recent Department of Energy Rulemaking Activities

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced the following regulatory actions of potential interest to Hong Kong and mainland Chinese exporters of battery chargers, portable air conditioners, dehumidifiers and compressors.

Battery Chargers
The DOE is imposing energy conservation standards for battery chargers after having concluded that these standards represent the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified and would result in significant conservation of energy. The effective date of this rule is 12 August but compliance will only be required for covered products manufactured in or imported into the United States on and after 13 June 2018.

The DOE states that a battery charger is a device that charges batteries for consumer products, including battery chargers embedded in other consumer products. Functionally, a battery charger is a power conversion device used to transform input voltage to a suitable voltage for charging the battery. Battery chargers are used in conjunction with other end-use consumer products, such as cell phones and digital cameras. However, the battery charger definition prescribed by Congress is not limited solely to products that are only powered from AC mains; i.e., products that plug into a wall outlet. Further, battery chargers may be wholly embedded in another consumer product, wholly separate from another consumer product, or partially inside and partially outside another consumer product. While devices that meet the statutory definition are within the scope of this rulemaking, the DOE is not setting standards for all battery chargers.

Portable Air Conditioners
The DOE is proposing new energy conservation standards for portable air conditioners that, if adopted, would apply to all single-duct and dual-duct portable air conditioners manufactured in or imported into the United States starting five years after the publication of a final rule. The agency has tentatively concluded that the proposed standards represent the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified and would result in the significant conservation of energy. In addition, portable air conditioners achieving the proposed standards are already commercially available for all covered products. However, the DOE notes that it could end up adopting standards that are either higher or lower than those proposed. The agency will hold a public meeting on this proposal (which will also be broadcast as a webinar) on 20 July. Comments, data and information regarding this proposal may be submitted through 15 August.

Dehumidifiers
The DOE has established tougher energy conservation standards for dehumidifiers after concluding that the amended standards would result in significant conservation of energy and are technologically feasible and economically justified. The effective date of this rule is 12 August but compliance will only be required for covered products manufactured in or imported into the United States on and after 13 June 2019.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act defines a dehumidifier as product that is self-contained, electrically operated and mechanically encased and that incorporates a refrigerated surface to condense moisture from the atmosphere. Dehumidifiers have a refrigerating system with an electric motor, a fan for air circulation, and a means for collecting or disposing of the condensate. In July 2015 the DOE clarified that this definition of a dehumidifier does not apply to portable air conditioners, room air conditioners or packaged terminal air conditioners.

Manufactured Housing
The DOE is proposing to establish energy conservation standards for manufactured housing based on the negotiated consensus recommendations of the manufactured housing working group. These recommendations were based on the 2015 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code, the impact of the IECC on the purchase price of manufactured housing, total life-cycle construction and operating costs, factory design and construction techniques unique to manufactured housing, and the current construction and safety standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The DOE will hold a meeting on 13 July to examine this proposal and will accept comments, data and information through 16 August.

Compressors
The DOE has extended to 17 August the deadline for public input on a proposal to establish new energy conservation standards for compressors. Subject compressors are those that are air compressors, rotary or reciprocating compressors, driven by a brushless electric motor, and distributed in commerce with a compressor motor nominal horsepower greater than or equal to 1 and less than or equal to 500 and that operate at a full-load operating pressure of greater than or equal to 31 and less than or equal to 225 pounds per square inch gauge. The DOE has tentatively concluded that the proposed standards represent the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified and would result in the significant conservation of energy. In addition, compressors achieving the proposed standards are already commercially available for all proposed equipment classes.

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