BOSTON — The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) released its revised “High Efficiency Commercial Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Initiative.” The initiative includes a high-efficiency energy performance specification for commercial air conditioning and heat pump equipment.

Updated for the first time since 1996, the initiative includes current energy savings potential, equipment trends, and a unitary HVAC market characterization, along with descriptions of market barriers to efficiency.

CEE updated the 2009 specification to replace integrated part load value criteria with IEER criteria, providing CEE members an improved basis for claiming energy savings across the full range of equipment operation.

The document aligns Tier 0 with the Energy Star® light commercial air conditioner specification, creating an opportunity for program administrators to leverage the Energy Star brand and marketing platform for commercial unitary air conditioners. Incorporating this tier also provides CEE members a transition strategy to meet concerns about introducing both a higher specification and an additional program requirement to their programs in IEER.

Additionally, the update provides a high-efficiency tier for variable refrigerant flow (VRF) multi-split air conditioners and heat pumps to support the need to promote the most efficient unitary equipment across different applications, and to differentiate and promote high-efficiency VRF systems.

The release will help bolster market relevance of the unitary heat pump specification by slightly lowering the EER requirements to better reflect the current levels of efficient cooling performance. This adjustment helps members encourage available cooling and heating efficiencies for conventional unitary heat pumps.

The initiative supports CEE members in taking advantage of new energy-saving opportunities created by technological advances in the market. By incorporating criteria based on IEER, and adding specifications for high-efficiency VRF, multi-split air conditioners, and heat pumps, the updated CEE commercial unitary air conditioning and heat pump specifications provides efficiency program administrators an updated basis for claiming savings across the full range of equipment operation.

“The significance of the IEER measurement is that program administrators can promote greater energy as well as peak savings,” said Marc Hoffman, CEE acting deputy director.

CEE members worked closely with manufacturers and trade associations during the revision process.

“CEE has been very conscientious about developing the new commercial air conditioning and heat pump specification, especially with regard to the VRF system specifications,” said Paul Doppel, Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating representative. “CEE has been inclusive with VRF manufacturers to make sure that the specification was consistent with the ASHRAE and DOE standards and the industry capabilities. They are to be applauded for their exceptional work.”

While the goal is primarily to meet efficiency program administrator needs for energy savings, achieving this goal is not possible without successfully engaging the industry.

“We are pleased to contribute to the process of updating this important specification,” said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). “This project, and many like it, is representative of what we can do when we work together toward a common goal.”

The revised specification provides three tiers of efficiency for unitary air conditioners, two tiers for unitary heat pumps, and one tier for VRF air conditioners and heat pumps. Using the minimum requirements in ASHRAE Standard 90.1 2010 model commercial building energy code as the baseline, and calculated based on IEER, CEE tiers offer an estimated potential savings ranging as high as 18 percent for a Tier 2 air conditioner.

When CEE last collected data in 2009, approximately 50 members across the U.S. and Canada participated in the High Efficiency Commercial Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Initiative. CEE plans to conduct a commercial HVAC program summary in 2012 to monitor adoption of the new specification into CEE member programs.

In 2010, the HVAC industry adopted a new part-load cooling metric for unitary air conditioners and heat pumps 65,000 Btuh or greater in cooling capacity, and new federal minimum efficiency standards for unitary equipment went into effect in January 2010, triggering CEE to revise the initiative.