Industry groups battle

Albuquerque, N.M. Industry groups, including the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute and Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International sent a letter to Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez referencing federal laws and national standards that make much of the new Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code unenforceable. The new commercial and residential building codes signed

Albuquerque, N.M. — Industry groups, including the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute and Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International sent a letter to Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez referencing federal laws and national standards that make much of the new Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code unenforceable.

The new commercial and residential building codes signed into law by the mayor on Sept. 25, 2007 scheduled to become effective on April 1, 2008, attempt to establish mandated minimum appliance efficiency standards to reduce energy consumption by buildings and homes by at least 30% compared to national standards but promise few benefits without enforcement capability.

Specifically mandated is ultra high-efficiency heating and air conditioning equipment installed in new construction, major remodeling and replacement situations. The new Albuquerque codes require air conditioning equipment with a minimum of 15 SEER and furnaces with a 90% AFUE.

The code will also eventually ban electric resistance water heaters, mandate R-20 insulation under radiant floor slabs, require pipe insulation of R-4 for pipe 2-in. in diameter or less and R-6 for pipe larger than 2-in. Boilers, heat pumps, water heaters and ventilating fans would all have to be Energy Star rated.

The code for one- and two-family detached dwellings and town houses calls for more efficient water heaters and, after Jan. 1, 2009, they will have to be Energy Star labeled. Seventy percent of all interior lighting is required to be Energy Star labeled. Attics would have to be ventilated in accordance with the 2006 International Residential Code. After Jan. 1, 2009, reflective roof coverings that meet Energy Star criteria will be required. On the same date, the minimum insulation requirement for walls will be increased to R-19.

Supply and return ducts would need to be insulated to a minimum of R-8. Ducts in floor trusses need to be insulated to a minimum of R-6. Ducts have to be sealed and supported in accordance with the 2006 International Residential Code. Also next January, the primary source for heating swimming pools must be solar collectors.

Buildings that use little, or no, fossil fuels will be exempt from the requirements of the code. Buildings certified as LEED Silver, or above, and buildings certified as Build Green New Mexico Silver, or above, are also exempt.

New commercial and multi-family buildings would have to be 30% more efficient than the minimum energy efficiency requirements of the 1999 edition of ASHRAE Standard 90.1, according to the Albuquerque code. The code also requires a series of projected energy use calculations for the proposed structure, performed by an architect or engineer registered in New Mexico.

Citing specific federal laws, HARDI and other industry organizations have informed the city of Albuquerque that it must file for a waiver of federal preemption from the U.S. Department of Energy prior to initiating their proposed codes which cannot be legally enforced until such a waiver is approved.

“While HARDI and our local distributor members would still be unable to support these codes that strip consumers of choice, significantly drive costs up and impede the free market's ability to satisfy local demands even if they were enforceable, the fact that they are unenforceable is especially troubling because unenforceable codes only put at risk the best of companies that attempt to comply with them,” said HARDI Vice President, Talbot Gee on behalf of seven HVAC distributor members serving the Albuquerque market.

Without an enforcement mechanism, the city's proposed codes open the doors to a “black market” of less expensive HVAC equipment with fewer guarantees of proper installations and no guarantees of any energy savings.

Enforceable or not, the proposed codes present several serious issues to local homeowners and businesses because they attempt to mandate high-end, high-efficiency HVAC equipment that is unjustifiable in many Albuquerque applications given its average heating and cooling demands and predominant building designs. Many current users of HVAC equipment would likely be unable or unwilling to pay premium prices for the mandated advanced equipment that they don't need and that requires extensive and more complicated installations. Further, of those living or working in Albuquerque who could justify such an upgrade, most have already done so without regulation because local HVAC distributors and contractors already sell and install advanced systems when desired by their local customers. Albuquerque's new codes would introduce no new HVAC equipment that is not already available but would only attempt to eliminate access to more affordable and appropriate HVAC systems for much of the city's applications, HARDI said.

TAGS: Law