Obama Administration Unveils Plan To Improve Efficiency In Hotels

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In an effort to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately save money, the federal government is considering requiring companies like hotels and motels to make sure their heating and cooling systems run more efficiently.

In a proposed rule in Monday’s federal register, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled new energy efficiency standards for packaged terminal air conditioners, called PTACs, and packaged terminal heat pumps, called PTHPs. The devices — which can make up 50 to 70 percent of a hotel’s energy usage — are through-the-wall heating and cooling systems used widely in the hospitality industry, but also used in offices and assisted living centers, among other places.

To cut down on the equipment’ large share of energy usage, the proposed rule states that PTACs and PTHPs would have be anywhere from four to seven percent more energy efficient than the current industry-recommended standard, depending on the model.

The proposed rule comes at the same time the Obama administration is reportedly preparing to introduce a major commitment from manufacturers to phase out the production and use of a popular coolant called R-134a, a potent hydrofluorocarbon that contributes to global warming. If that effort is successful, the Washington Post reports the commitment would have the carbon impact equivalent of removing 15 million cars from the road.

As for the PTAC and PTHP regulations, the DOE estimates the new standards could result in up to 11.29 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions — the equivalent of taking about 2.3 million cars off the road. The measures could cost businesses up to $9.39 million per year, though the DOE notes that ultimate savings from reduced operating costs would be up to $13.1 million per year, along with $7.2 million in savings from carbon dioxide reductions and $290,000 per year in reduced nitrogen dioxide emissions.

“DOE has tentatively concluded that the proposed standards represent the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified, and would result in a significant conservation of energy,” the rule reads. “DOE has tentatively concluded that the benefits of the proposed standards to the Nation (energy savings, positive NPV of customer benefits, customer LCC savings, and emission reductions) would outweigh the burdens.”

The rule points out that many PTACs and PTHPs manufactured today already meet the standard, but says hotels and other companies that use the devices would have four years after the final rule is published to comply. The DOE said it had considered more stringent energy efficiency levels, but concluded that the economic burdens to industry would probably outweigh the environmental benefits.

The benefits, though, are many, according to DOE: “Enhanced energy efficiency, where economically justified, improves the nation’s energy security, strengthens the economy, and reduces the environmental impacts or costs of energy production,” the proposed rule reads. “Reduced electricity demand due to energy conservation standards is also likely to reduce the cost of maintaining the reliability of the electricity system, particularly during peak-load periods.”