So what is the story this year? The story is legislative gridlock leading to "agency anarchy". AHRI and environmentalists have reached a consensus agreement that both industry and the public could live with regarding energy efficiency for residential and commercial HVAC equipment. Before that consensus agreement can become the law of the land it must be ratified by the US Congress...and that is where the problems began. The consensus is hopelessly stuck in Congress and going nowhere for the foreseeable future. So into the void steps the Department of Energy. The DOE has the authority to create requirements and that is what they are doing.
DOE is setting efficiency standards and starting to require verification tests independently of the long established AHRI standards and verification standards. Manufacturers are faced with double standards and double testing. All of that testing costs money and ultimately those costs are past through in the cost of the equipment.
Further complicating the issues and adding costs are states that also see the void and step in with their own requirements. Some of these states are looking to Europe where standards are moving even faster to increase efficiency and decrease environmental impacts. While these are worthy goals the lack of consistency creates uncertainty for manufacturers. Manufacturers will often simply design to the worst case scenario and leave all customers facing higher costs.
More standards are coming from other sources as well. ASHRAE is proposing revisions to their Standard 90.1 that would require a 50% improvement in building efficiency and all but outlaw certain types of equipment The Canadian province of British Columbia is proposing codes that would require manufacturers to provide a means of recycling HVAC equipment...again raising costs.
The bottom line is that costs are under all kinds of hidden pressures that will ultimately land on the consumer.