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The Comfort Zone: SPVU Efficiency Changes


SPVU (single package vertical unit) is a category acronym for a HVAC unit, but better known to us in the commercial modular industry as a wall mount unit. AHRI (Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute) is the trade association, representing manufacturers of HVACR and water heating equipment, that certifies efficiency, establishes HVAC standards, and provides HVAC industry advocacy. AHRI provides the testing standards to determine HVAC unit efficiency, and lists the efficiency for use by mechanical engineers, state code officials, energy consultants, and all of us HVAC end users. However, be careful, “testing to” the AHRI standard is not the same as being listed by AHRI as meeting the standard. A unit could be tested to the AHRI standard and not be listed by AHRI.


On Sept 23 2019, the minimum efficiency in the United States for SPV-AC (air conditioners) will increase to a minimum 11 EER for units under 65,000 btuh cooling, and to 10 EER for 65,000 btuh cooling to 240,000 btuh cooling. SPV-HP (heat pumps) cooling will be the same as ACs and their COP (coefficient of performance) must be 3.3. These are federal regulations that the entire United States will be required to comply with. All SPVU units manufactured on or after Sept 23, 2019 will be required to meet this regulation as their minimum. All SPVU units manufactured before Sept 23, 2019 will be legal to sell, install, and use. Further all types of commercial HVAC units that fall under EPACT will have their own efficiency increase requirement.


Most of our 50 states currently have 9 EER as their minimum efficiency while a handful of our 50 states have codified 10 EER as their minimum efficiency during their most recent code cycle update. The transition for those 9 EER states to the new 11 EER minimum efficiency will see the biggest change in units and pricing.


We often hear of HVAC units rated in SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). SEER is considered more of a residential rating under AHRI standard 210/240 as it takes into consideration seasonal use operation and regional zones. AHRI standard 210/240 (SEER) fall under the Dept of Energy, the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act enacted in 1987, for regulation of home appliances.


SPVUs are commercial units rated in EER under AHRI Standard 390 used for commercial and continuous operation and fall under the DOEs Energy Policy Act (EPACT).


Both SEER and EER are rating methods like vehicle MPG (miles per gallon). What output do we get for the energy consumed. The simpler of the two calculations, EER, is how many btuh of cooling are produced per watt of energy at a specific indoor and outdoor condition.


SEER has a more complicated formula taking into consideration regional weather conditions and climate zones. EER data is used in the mathematical calculation to obtain SEER. We might consider a SEER to be a fluffed up EER.


An additional new term IPLV (integrated part load value) is the rating used for multi stage compressor units. IPLV is similar to an average EER based on a formula from the AHRI standards. Two stage cooling and heating units are generally more efficient because they balance the unit output closer to the building load.


Between now and Sept 2019, the SPVU manufacturers are working with intensity to upgrade their product lines to the new 11 EER/3.3 COP standard. Somewhere along the line will be current (future non-compliant) unit phase out, and new 11 EER unit phase in. Can they squeeze more efficiency out of the same cabinet size? It may be too soon to tell; however, you can be sure that needs to be the goal for fleet SPVU replacement.


This National efficiency increase should hold off most states from enacting even higher minimums on their next code cycle, however there will surely be other HVAC related changes forthcoming.


Washington state requires heat pumps with economizers for all applications except wireless cellular buildings. California will require Merv 13 filters and may have a ventilation rate change in all HVAC Jan 2020. Also, California currently requires an economizer in any HVAC unit above 54,000 btuh cooling when using the Title 24 prescriptive method. Colorado has adopted IEEC 2015 and IMC 2018 effective Jan 2019. Oh, how do we keep it all straight.


Take care of yourselves until the next time we meet in…..The Comfort Zone.