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How DOE Changes Impact HVAC in Residential New Construction and Multifamily


The uncertainty as to what products are going to be made available to meet the new Department of Energy compliance is a somewhat unique situation because it’s both a ratings change—how they actually rate the equipment—and an increase in efficiency standards.

Most distributors and manufacturers are sending educational material out via their websites and other collateral to try to make contractors and consumers aware of pending change. But there are still some questions around interpretation of how the DOE will expect this to be or how they will drive compliance.

There is also still some uncertainty among distributors as to when they will have equipment products that are fully compliant with the new standards.

As we get closer to January 2023, it’s going to be important for contractors to understand the changes in HVAC standards and help educate everyone involved.

Multifamily HVAC

With the new ratings system and changes in efficiency standards, a multifamily HVAC system may need a total replacement.

“It’s not just the outdoor unit, it’s the combination of the outdoor and indoor unit as a system that must meet a certain efficiency standard to be compliant,” explained Steven Tankard, senior director of category management at Ferguson.

“On an existing town home, for example, or an apartment complex, a lot of times the building management would just go change the outdoor unit. Well, now they may have to change the entire system and the new outdoor and indoor units could very well be larger than what is currently installed.”

That’s especially important, Tankard noted, because on some of those properties, owners may need to accommodate the larger footprint on these units, which may impact construction or renovation plans.

New M1 testing procedures

The new testing procedures around external static pressure and how much to use when testing a system is moving the ratings closer to a real-life environment. This provides a more accurate rating to reflect typical installation conditions.

The new Appendix M1 testing guidelines increase the minimum rated external static pressure conditions from .1 ESP to five times higher, at .5 ESP.

Planning and educating for DOE changes

The biggest impact on residential new construction (RNC) and multifamily will be planning and addressing the potential for a 25% increase in cost.

As many developments are in the planning stage 12 months in advance, contractors and building owners will need to learn what will be available to them starting in the latter part of 2022 as the manufacturers shift production lines, as well as the new dimensions of the units and what new costs will be.

Each manufacturer will approach the ratings and guidelines from different sizing and technological angles, so having the information not just from a pricing and availability perspective but also space constraints and downstream implication side will be critical. Such factors as framing constraints, line set sizing, condenser pads or roof mounts and control compatibility will all come into play.

“In some cases, even if there’s product out there that hasn’t been sold yet, you won’t be able to get a compliant rating for that product,” Tankard said.

“So, for both contractor and distributor, we’ve got to be really cognizant of that so that we’re shipping product that is compliant and that we don’t end up with a lot of inventory pieces that really can’t be sold because they don’t meet the new compliance standards.”

Plan RNC and multifamily HVAC projects now

While January 2023 may seem far away, given all the changes and planning required, residential new construction and multifamily HVAC contractors need to start planning for their projects, pricing changes and inventory needs now.

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