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Commercial warm-air furnaces are defined as units with capacities of at least 225,000 Btu/hr (British Thermal Units per Hour). They are designed to supply heated air through a duct system. In practice, commercial furnaces are gas or propane heating sections of packaged rooftop units (RTUs) used for small to mid-sized commercial buildings. RTUs are essentially air conditioners that may also contain a heating section.
Congress established the first national standards for commercial warm-air furnaces as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The standards took effect in 1994 and specify minimum thermal efficiency levels of 80% for gas-fired equipment and 81% for oil-fired equipment.
In April 2015, DOE formed a working group to negotiate new energy conservation standards for commercial warm-air furnaces. The working group recommendations, which raise the efficiency levels to 81% for gas-fired and 82% for oil-fired equipment, were ultimately adopted by DOE in a December 2015 direct final rule. The new standards will take effect on January 1, 2023.
Below is an excerpt from DOE 10 CFR Part 431 Part D:
Currently, we are incorporating technology into our duct furnaces to provide Thermal Efficiencies of 81% or higher. This will allow our customers to certify performance of their products in accordance with Department of Energy (DOE) furnace test procedures as published in the latest edition of Federal Regulations 10 CFR Part 431 Subpart D.
Heatco is currently working through our standard product offerings (HM, HD, HE, HF) – we will continue with our more custom product lines (HH, HT) after January 1st, 2023. Please note that our condensing product series (EM, EF) and our direct gas-fired product line (DF) are already above the 81% thermal efficiency threshold and do not require any upgrade.
What does this change mean to you, the OEM?
The 81% efficient versions of the Heatco product lines will have an overall smaller air tunnel profile. Heatco has been able to maintain the heat exchanger footprint while decreasing the spacings around the heat exchanger tubes. 81% efficient versions will continue to use the current control systems, modulating controls, electrical components, and features that the OEM is accustomed to.
Heatco will update its agency (Intertek and UL) listing reports with the new dimensional and performance information. Rating plate markings will indicate thermal output based on the higher efficiency determined by testing.
There will be no listing implications to you, the OEM. Once Heatco updates our corresponding internal listing reports, you, the OEM, can claim the increase in efficiency, and install according to the Heatco conditions of acceptability. The conditions are the same except for the decreased clearances around the heat exchanger tubes.
Equipment manufacturers will need to certify performance ratings of their finished product incorporating Heatco duct furnaces through other certifying organizations such as AHRI (Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute). This rating is independent of NRTL listing to an ANSI standard.