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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 walk-in cooler and freezer refrigeration systems, consumer refrigerators and freezers, compressors, and central air conditioners and heat pumps.

Walk-in Coolers/Freezers
The DOE has established new energy conservation standards for certain discrete classes of refrigeration systems used in walk-in coolers and walk-in freezers. More specifically, the standards cover low-temperature dedicated condensing refrigeration systems and both medium- and low-temperature unit coolers. These standards are in addition to the requirements that the DOE has already promulgated for medium-temperature dedicated condensing refrigeration systems.

The DOE states that the new standards are consistent with recommendations presented by a working group that included refrigeration system manufacturers, installers and energy efficiency advocates, and have been determined to result in the significant conservation of energy and achieve the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified. While the effective date of the final rule setting forth the new standards is 8 September 2017, compliance will be required from 10 July 2020.

Fridges and Freezers
The DOE has initiated a data collection process to consider whether to amend the energy test procedures for consumer refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers and freezers. To inform interested parties and to facilitate this process, the DOE has gathered data identifying several issues associated with the currently applicable test procedures on which the agency is interested in receiving comment. These issues mainly concern testing products with newly-available features, the inclusion of automatic icemaker energy use, built-in product test configuration, any issues with the current test procedure that need to be addressed, and any additional topics that may inform the DOE’s decisions in a future test procedure rulemaking, including methods to reduce regulatory burden while ensuring the procedure’s accuracy. Interested parties may submit input by 31 July.

The DOC published a final rule on 4 January establishing new energy test procedures for certain varieties of compressors. The final rule established definitions, materials incorporated by reference, sampling plans, representation requirements, enforcement provisions and test procedures for certain varieties of compressors. Since that time, the DOE has received correspondence raising concerns that certain issues and information may not have been fully considered during the original rulemaking proceeding and also indicating further clarification may be needed to implement the rule as adopted. As a result, the agency is seeking further data and information by 11 September regarding the compressor test procedure and announcing that the DOE will not seek to enforce the test procedure rule for 180 days (i.e., until 30 December 2017) while it considers the data and information already submitted as well as any further material submitted in response to this request for information.

Central ACs and Heat Pumps
The DOE has postponed the effectiveness of certain provisions of a 5 January final rule that amended the energy test procedure and specific certification, compliance and enforcement provisions for central air conditioners and heat pumps. The postponed provisions require outdoor unit models to be tested under the outdoor unit with no match if they meet either of the two following conditions: (i) the outdoor unit is approved for use with a refrigerant that has a 95 °F midpoint saturation absolute pressure that is plus or minus 18 percent of the 95 °F saturation absolute pressure for HCFC-22; or (ii) the unit is shipped requiring the addition of more than two pounds of refrigerant to meet the charge required for testing under the rule and the factory charge is not equal to or greater than 70 percent of the outdoor unit internal volume times the liquid density of refrigerant at 95 °F.

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