The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 17 announced advancements in the ENERGY STAR program that will help set the stage for an economy-wide transition to the types of technology that will be critical in the fight against climate change. As the agency works toward realizing President Biden’s goal of reducing emissions by more than 50% by 2030, public-private partnerships will be key to fostering a clean energy future by reducing fossil fuel use, increasing energy efficiency, and creating local jobs, according to an EPA release.
“With today’s updated ENERGY STAR standards, EPA is leading the way in advancing technologies that will revolutionize the way we use energy as a country, as we work to achieve President Biden’s goal of a net-zero economy by 2050,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “From innovative heat pump technology, to the advancement of electric vehicle charging, to inclusive financing for ENERGY STAR upgrades, today’s announcements will catalyze efforts to make high-performing, energy efficient technology available to every household in America.”
EPA has updated ENERGY STAR standards for residential water heaters and heating/cooling equipment that advance innovative heat pump technologies as a key component to carbon pollution reduction while also reducing energy use and heating costs. Leveraging the ENERGY STAR label, the extensive network of ENERGY STAR partners will facilitate purchases of these products and lead the way to ultimately provide every American household access to clean, affordable heating and water heating, with equipment that enhances home comfort in any climate. These new standards ensure significant continued energy efficiency gains while the heat pump market also moves to climate-friendlier refrigerants.
EPA estimates that if all heat pumps, central air conditioners, and electric water heaters sold in the U.S. met the new ENERGY STAR standards, the energy cost savings would grow to $11 billion a year and avoid 255 billion pounds of greenhouse gases per year, equivalent to a third of all direct greenhouse gas emissions from American homes and apartments in 2019.
The new standards for heat pumps introduce more rigorous efficiency requirements and a new ENERGY STAR Cold Climate designation that will help consumers and contractors easily identify equipment optimized for low outside temperatures. These requirements help ensure that heat pumps have the capacity to efficiently provide a comfortable level of heat when it is very cold out, avoiding the need for less efficient backup heating. For all climates, the new standards address issues associated with equipment installation and maintenance – issues that can undermine expected energy savings and comfort. For example, oversized equipment will heat and cool less effectively and less efficiently. These updated standards recognize equipment features, such as variable speed compressors, that address this type of issue. They also promote emerging technology solutions, like automatic fault detection and diagnostics, that flag when and where there is a problem and assist the contractor in ensuring the installation is done correctly.
The updated water heater standards encourage the availability of ENERGY STAR certified heat pump water heaters for an even wider variety of residential settings. They recognize significant progress in the efficiency of heat pump water heaters, as well as setting separate requirements for split system water heaters and 120V integrated water heaters.
These new ENERGY STAR standards are part of a broader EPA initiative to accelerate emissions reductions and generate local jobs through increased energy efficiency and beneficial electrification across the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. This work takes a market transformation approach, leveraging partnerships with thousands of companies, organizations, and state and local governments from across the U.S. economy.
For the heat pump technology in particular, EPA is committed to a goal of dramatically increasing the sales penetration of efficient heat pump equipment by 2030. The agency works closely with heating/cooling and water heater manufacturers to promote ENERGY STAR certified equipment and connect homeowners with qualified equipment installers. Through its partnerships with utility and statewide efficiency programs, EPA is encouraging broad availability of financial incentives for ENERGY STAR certified equipment. Consumer resource offerings include web-based buying guidance and interactive tools designed to help households navigate the purchase process.
The ENERGY STAR program also expanded to cover electric vehicle (EV) chargers used in commercial settings, known as DC fast chargers. Accelerating electric vehicle adoption and energy efficient EV charging is a priority in the pursuit of a clean energy future, and EPA has developed the first credible energy efficiency test method for fast chargers. Due to the potential for DC chargers to increase the range of EVs and support efforts to establish EV charging corridors for cross-country transportation, this update will aid in increasing the adoption of electric vehicle technology and assist the country in realizing the administration’s goal to reduce carbon pollution. As we work to modernize and upgrade the country’s commercial buildings, integrating the use of electric vehicle charging stations will play a key role in reducing carbon pollution.
As part of this effort, EPA announces a range of new commitments:
• Develop a new ENERGY STAR program offering to accelerate energy efficiency and electrification retrofits in existing homes. The ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade will focus on home upgrade measures that, together, offer the greatest potential to reduce residential fossil fuel use and deliver significant net energy savings. It will serve as a platform for the vast network of ENERGY STAR partners to leverage the integrity and market influence of the ENERGY STAR label, capitalizing on existing and emerging financial incentives, to quickly scale up effective programs and promotions. Underserved households will be a focus of this new program offering through efforts to expand inclusive utility and state investment programs.
• Advance the ENERGY STAR Recognition Program for Residential New Construction. EPA will be advancing the ENERGY STAR recognition program for newly-constructed homes and apartments to ensure that the program stays ahead of new codes at both the national and state level to offer prospective homebuyers and renters even more cost-effective energy efficiency. EPA also will work with stakeholders to explore new opportunities to expand the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction program to help accelerate the transition of the nation’s housing stock towards electrification and decarbonization.
• Advance public health protections through residential labeling programs for indoor air quality. To achieve the co-benefits of energy efficiency and health, EPA will advance our Indoor airPLUS home labelling program, proposing comprehensive updates to its program design and specifications to ensure indoor air quality and health protections in both new and existing residential homes and affordable housing.
• Support development of building benchmarking policies and building performance standards. EPA is increasing direct technical support, enhancing toolkits and guidance documents, and targeting training to facilitate, inform, and support state and local government decision makers adopting policies to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from existing commercial and multifamily buildings. EPA is developing a white paper to guide the selection of metrics used in building performance standards, supported by data and analyses, to advance these critical decisions. Our goal is to enable greater consistency among these policies, which will provide more certainty for building owners and all stakeholders and ensure that building investments have the greatest environmental benefits.
• Launch EPA Zero-Carbon Building Recognition. EPA is developing criteria for a new zero-carbon commercial building recognition. This new recognition will serve to encourage early adoption of efficiency, electrification, green power and renewable thermal certificates in buildings, and to complement building performance standards and ENERGY STAR certification for top performing energy efficient buildings.
• Launch a New Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator Tool for Commercial Buildings. EPA is helping buildings to chart their course to zero carbon with a new tool linked to the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® benchmarking tool used by over 25% of the commercial building space in the country. The new calculator will support scenario-building and estimating the impacts of electrification and renewable energy at the building and portfolio level by enabling the use of customized emissions factors to estimate future emissions associated with building energy use.
• Provide technical assistance to state, local and tribal governments. Subnational governments are critical to the success of national initiatives to make buildings more climate-friendly, affordable, and healthier. EPA will support state, local and tribal governments by developing new tools and resources on building energy efficiency and decarbonization, with a focus on proven results and programs that prioritize equitable outcomes for consumers.