Some experts say that the average homeowner in North America spends about $1,000 every single year on heating and cooling their houses. That’s close to half of what the estimated annual home energy bill is said to be! For that reason alone it’s stupid not to invest in energy efficient air conditioners that will save you money while keeping you cool or warm, depending on the season.
But that’s not the end of it. While air conditioning units are designed to make the interior of our homes more comfortable, they also dehumidify the air and remove unwanted particles and dust that collects in the air. In a nutshell, this is what makes the air we breathe more healthy.
So if you are shopping for a new air conditioner, it’s best to look for one that is not only energy efficient, but one that will meet all the other environmental guidelines as well.
An excellent place to start looking is at units that meet the ENERGY STAR requirements.
About ENERGY STAR
ENERGY STAR is a program that was set up as a joint venture between the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy. The aim of the program is to do anything possible to reduce costs and at the same time protect the environment by using products that are energy efficient. It also aims to educate people in terms of what it means to follow energy efficient practices.
According to ENERGY STAR, with their help, Americans alone managed to save close on $18-billion on their utility bills in 2010. They also announced that during 2010 Americans managed to avoid producing greenhouse gas emissions that would have been equivalent to what 33-million cars would have produced. Add this to Canadian efforts, and in fact the efforts of people in the rest of the educated world, and you will begin to see exactly what is possible.
The idea is that by buying household products, including air conditioners, that have been endorsed by ENERGY STAR, you will save money. This is because to earn ENERGY STAR, products have to meet strict energy efficiency guidelines.
So which products are recognized by ENERGY STAR? Generally speaking you will find this fact acknowledged on labels.
ENERGY STAR products
While you can look for labels on products that show they are ENERGY STAR endorsed, it is always helpful to have a starting point. Here are some pointers:
- Trane offers both cool and warm air that is clean. This American company (www.trane.com) offers a broad range of HVAC systems which will heat, ventilate, dehumidify and basically condition the air of your home or business building. The company also has products that are sold under the American Standard brand.
- General Electric – GE (http://www.geappliances.com/energy-star-appliances/room-air-conditioner.htm) has a good selection of different types of ENERGY STAR air conditioners designed to be installed either in the wall or in windows. These have high-efficiency compressors, as well as heat transfer surfaces and fan motors that are designed to help reduce consumption of energy – which relate directly to the reduction of utility costs.
- Lennox (http://www.lennox.com/products/air-conditioners/) also manufactures ENERGY STAR air conditioner, including some that are solar-ready. Efficiency ratings differ according to the various models.
- Sharp (http://www.sharpusa.com/) also produce air conditioners that meet the ENERGY STAR requirements.
And there are many, many more.
Other products with energy efficiency ratings
LG products (www.lg.com) carry the Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) that shows you at a glance just how energy efficient specific air conditioners are. The higher the rating, the less the unit will cost you to operate. Basically how it works is that the EER indicates how many BTUs (which are British Thermal Units – a well established measurement of the energy needed to raise temperature) are needed every hour to draw a watt of electric power. It’s a technical rating that measures the unit’s cooling performance at the time it is working hardest.
The higher the EER, the more efficient your air conditioner is.
Heating and cooling efficiently
Having said you should look out for ENERGY STAR endorsed air conditioners, there are some other steps that you can do to make sure that the machines you are using work efficiently. For instance, regular maintenance is essential, and just as you would service and tune-up your vehicles, so too should you regularly service your air conditioner.
In particular, it is absolutely essential to check the filter monthly, particularly when the machine is working hard in summer or winter. If it looks grubby, don’t think twice, rather change it. Most filters need to be changed two to four times a year (in other words three-monthly or twice a year) although some brands, including LG claim that if you keep the filter clean you won’t need to replace them at all. If you don’t though, and they get really grubby, you are going to find that a dirty filter slows down the flow of air and in turn, the system is going to have to work harder and it probably won’t cope. If it doesn’t operate properly, the air conditioner will draw a lot more power than it needs. Apart from this, if the filter is clean, it will prevent dirt and dust – and other pollutants – from entering and building up within the system. Not only will this prevent the machine from operating efficiently, but it will almost certainly lead to early system failure.
ENERGY STAR also recommends installing a thermostat that you can program. This is an ideal option for those who spend time away from home. In fact the agency says that by using a programmable thermostat you can save as much as $180 annually in energy costs.
Another way you can make heating and cooling systems more efficient is to seal cooling and heating ducts. These are the ducts that move air to and from heat pumps, air furnaces, and central air conditioners which so often waste an incredible amount of energy. By sealing the ducts adequately, you can save as much as 20% on energy costs. Generally the place to start is in attics or smaller roof spaces, as well as unheated (usually unused) basements and garages. Once the ducts have been sealed, make sure you add good insulation to ensure the system doesn’t get hot in summer and cold in winter.
Lastly remember that bigger is not necessarily the best. In fact if you buy an air conditioner that is too big for the area you need to warm or cool, it is likely to waste energy AND it may well be less effective.