Photo of Sheila MillarPhoto of Jean-Cyril Walker

On December 22, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) announced adoption of a final rule requiring the use of the EnergyGuide labels on portable air conditioners (ACs). Effective October 1, 2022, portable AC manufacturers must attach yellow EnergyGuide labels on the principal display panel of their packaging and include an image of the required label on websites and catalogs advertising the product.

The FTC initially proposed that the labeling requirement would go into effect on January 10, 2025, the same day as new portable AC DOE efficiency standards. Given that these products are increasingly common in the marketplace, exhibit a wide range of energy efficiency and energy costs across similarly sized units, and sometimes consume more energy than currently labeled room air conditioners, the FTC decided that consumers would benefit from moving the effective date up to October 1, 2022.

The final amendments also update the energy efficiency ratings used at 10 C.F.R. Part 305 for central AC units from “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)” to “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio 2 (SEER2).” A new ratings methodology goes into effect on January 1, 2023, and Part 305 will be consistent with this change. Manufacturers may begin to use the new terminology before then provided that the represented energy efficiencies comply with the minimum requirements going into effect in 2023.

The Commission considered but ultimately decided not to pursue broader changes to the Energy Label rule, such as a transition to electronic labeling, at this time. The FTC may seek further input on such changes on a later date after having had an opportunity to gather information sufficient to support significant changes to the entire rule. In the interim, the vote in favor of publishing the notice in the Federal Register was 4-1. Commissioner Christine S. Wilson voted no and issued a dissenting statement in which she expressed concern that the final changes to the Rule do not remove prescriptive aspects that she believed were an impediment to competition. Wilson called for a full review of the Rule “to consider removing all dated and prescriptive provisions, and to consider the recent comments suggesting changes. Nothing prevents the Commission from conducting this review now – we do not have to wait until the 10-year anniversary.”

Commissioner Rohit Chopra also issued a separate statement in which he commended the Commission for “finalizing a rule that will help to reduce the long-term burden of high energy bills on low-income families, promote greater energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions from residential housing,” and for moving up the compliance date, which he believes would result in significant consumer savings in energy costs.