AC testing standards ‘inadequate’, says RMI

With the world predicted to soon face the hottest year on record, clean energy not-for-profit the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has highlighted the need for better air conditioning testing standards and performance ratings.

According to RMI, today’s testing standards and performance ratings are more aligned with the climate profiles of the global north, which experience lower levels of humidity than those in the global south. It also says the current test procedures are too simplistic, because they measure standard cooling capacity by locking the compressor speed at an outdoor temperature of 35°C, far from how the units operate in the real world.

Global Cooling Prize – the next chapter

Last year, RMI and a number of leading manufacturers began work on a project to identify new tests that would reflect the true performance of next-generation technologies across multiple climate profiles. The work stemmed from the Global Cooling Prize, an innovation competition that saw participants develop room air conditioners with five times less climate impact than standard models. One of the key findings from the prize was that performance metrics do not reflect the advantages of next-generation units, and may therefore become a barrier to greater uptake by consumers.

RMI’s Ankit Kalanki says that over the past year, the team has been busy developing the new tests.

“The results have helped us to further evolve our hypothesis that we believe can help bridge the gap between real-world operation and current CSPF/SEER based ratings,” says Kalanki.

“We will be undertaking further testing over the next few months, following which we hope to share the key findings and recommendations with the broader audience, including making these available to standard-setting bodies around the world.”

Kalanki says the project continues to receive a high level of engagement from the manufacturers involved. The team is also finalising plans for field demonstrations of units optimised for real-world operation that are tested to the evolved hypothesis.

In Australia, the federal government recently allocated funding for the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards program. Kalanki says this is a positive sign.

“We believe that minimum energy performance standards must advance and pull towards the best available technology (BAT), which is at almost ‘double’ the efficiency of market standard ACs in Australia, so that the adoption of BAT can happen at scale. This is key to prime the market for the super-efficient next-generation ACs for when they are ready, all while we get the necessary updates to the testing standards and performance rating systems that recognise such products.”

ISO updates to testing standards

At the same time that RMI and other stakeholders are exploring new testing metrics, a working group within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is also developing a new generation of testing standards for air conditioners and heat pumps.

Group ISO/TC 86/SC 6/TG 13 has been working for around two years now, with representatives of governments and industry around the world. The new standards will incorporate innovative, dynamic, load-based performance testing methods that recognise the role that new technology like control algorithms, variable-speed compressors and variable-speed fan motors play in today’s units.

The new standards are expected later this year.

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