UL Environment

Rule tweak proposed for gas furnace retrofits

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pending updates to Canada’s energy efficiency regulations will tighten minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for 20 categories of commercial and household equipment and appliances, but will relax an existing requirement that has proved problematic for gas furnace retrofits in multi-residential buildings. The proposed amendments, which are open for public review and comment until mid-July, reflect a bi-national agreement to harmonize performance requirements as much as possible for energy-consuming products sold in Canada and the United States.

“Natural Resources Canada estimates that, as of January 2016, Canada’s regulations align with less than 50 per cent of product categories regulated in the United States,” the regulatory impact analysis accompanying the recent proposed amendments states. “As a result of removing unnecessary regulatory differences, compliance costs associated with having to test the same product model twice to comply with Canadian and U.S. regulations would be reduced.”

Commercial and multi-residential building applications covered in this new round of amendments — in keeping with ongoing modifications since Canadian energy efficiency standards were first introduced in 1995 — include lighting, electric motors, HVAC systems and components and commercial clothes washers. More stringent performance standards are also proposed for commercial refrigeration and ice-makers, and a range of residential products.

Projected outcomes include a $1.6-billion net cost benefit by 2030 and 0.8-megatonne reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the same period. Payback on investment is calculated at less than 10 years across the entire slate of designated product types, and at no more than two years for six of the categories.

The proposed amendments also roll back the standard for annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) in through-the-wall gas furnaces in multi-residential buildings to address the technology’s limitations in retrofit scenarios where a new unit would be constrained to the same space its forerunner had occupied. The current regulation mandates 90 per cent AFUE for gas furnace replacement units, while the proposed new threshold is 78 per cent.

“They are designed to be installed in a standard-sized opening in the exterior wall of each residential unit,” the regulatory impact analysis explains. “Industry raised concerns that the commercialization of technology that achieves this level of efficiency without increasing the physical size of product has occurred at a slower pace than initially anticipated. Therefore, buildings with existing wall openings that cannot accept larger products have had difficulties sourcing equipment for retrofit applications.”

Natural Resources Canada is also preparing to launch consultations on another 15 product categories with the expectation that proposed amendments will be ready by the spring of 2017.

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