As a follow up to Nick’s recent post about NREL and smarter homes, the Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the first rooftop air conditioning unit to meet its Rooftop Unit (RTU) Challenge. Manufacturer Daikin McQuay’s Rebel RTU is the first to meet the specifications outlined in the RTU Challenge. As noted in the NREL article, air conditioning units are a major contributor to strain on the electric grid. Reducing the demand (since it seems unlikely that use of air conditioners will decrease in the foreseeable future) for electricity that these appliances create appears to be the best route forward.
The RTU Challenge began early last year when the DOE partnered with the Commercial Building Energy Alliance (CBEA) “to release a design specification for 10-ton capacity commercial air conditioners, also known as rooftop units (RTUs).” With a goal of prodding manufacturers to produce a “cost-effective, energy-saving RTUs that would significantly outperform any models that were currently available,” Daikin McQuay, Carrier, Lennox, 7AC Technologies, and Rheem participated in the challenge.
While Daikin McQuay is the first of the aforementioned manufacturers to produce a unit meeting the specifications, the other companies have until April 1, 2013 to submit their products. As a result of the improved design, it is anticipated that the RTUs will require half the electricity as compared to current standards. The DOE estimates that businesses could save more than $1 billion annually in terms of energy costs with these more efficient RTUs.
In addition, the DOE reports that big retailers like Target and Walmart, both of which are part of the CBEA, have expressed interest in affordable units that demonstrate these types of efficiencies. Interestingly, the list of participating companies was announced at an event hosted by NREL, the National Renewable Energy Lab. How’s that for symmetry?