As in the past with lead-free potable piping or pump efficiency standards, many contractors take a laissez-faire approach, “I’ll let the manufacturer take care of this on their end and continue to sell as I’ve always done.” Simple as that, huh?
First of all, how many contractors knew of this upcoming regulation and what it even means?
The Fan Efficiency Rating (FER) is a regulation passed by the Department of Energy in 2014 that limits the power consumption (watts per cfm) of furnace fans on certain HVAC equipment. This includes gas, oil, and electric furnaces, modular blowers and gas-fired residential package units.
This means that furnace fans, also known as blowers—which use a permanent split capacitor (PSC) motor—cannot meet the power consumption requirement. Therefore, after July 3, 2019, furnaces may only be manufactured with an electronically commutated motor (ECM), which can be either constant torque or variable speed. Inducer fans are not covered under the regulation.
“ECMs offer added benefits, including the fact that they are easier to troubleshoot,” says Valerie Mastalka, senior product marketing manager, Heating, Lennox. The main difference is that a PSC motor uses a capacitor, and an ECM does not, which typically makes trouble-shooting easier on an ECM.
According to Mastalka, there isn’t a restriction on selling or installing these after the deadline—until the inventory runs out. Most manufacturers will likely try to go through existing inventory through the end of 2019. There is no restriction on selling or installing equipment with a PSC motor that was built before July 3, 2019. And, PSC motors will still be available for warranty replacements and non-warranty repairs.
Perhaps the onus, then, for the lack of a better word, does fall squarely on the manufacturers to make sure that the new ECM units are compliant by the July 3 deadline. As with most changes in product manufacturing, there will be an incurred cost and a cost increase should be assumed.
Nonetheless, contractors need to be aware of the new standards coming into effect, and training can be paramount on these new ECM models. As engineering teams gear up for product compliance, dealers are getting ahead of the training, suggests Mastalka.
Information provided by Lennox.