Energy Star Window Air Conditioners
ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy designed to help cut energy costs and protect the environment. Part of the program is the Energy Star qualification of selected products. I think many people have been much like me when it comes to the Energy Star label on a product like a window air conditioner. It’s nice, but if I liked another product better, I’d probably buy that one. But my views on this issue are changing for a couple of reasons.
Everyone knows by now about the concerns over global warming. Part of the rational for the Energy Star program is the idea that small reductions in energy consumption by many people can add up to big differences in global consumption, and make a difference in the fight against global warming. But many people have legitimate concerns over the nature of the warming. Is it just a natural cycle or something man-made? I’m not here to argue either way, but I will give a few reasons why buying Energy Star products is a good idea regardless of one’s belief on global warming.
First, the obvious: money. According to the US Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, a room air conditioner must use at least 10% less energy than a standard model to earn the Energy Star qualification.** That means energy cost savings when compared to using a unit that is not Energy Star qualified. (Note that a “room air conditioner” is a wall or window air conditioner designed to cool a single room, not including portable air conditioners. No criteria have as yet been devised for portable air conditioners, so none are Energy Star qualified at this time).
Take a look at our Window Air Conditioner page, and you will see that most of them are Energy Star qualified. Those that have the Energy Star qualification are a bit more expensive than others. Depending on how much the unit is used, eventually any up-front cost difference will likely be made up in energy savings.
But that’s not the only criteria they use. Features like digital display, timers, directional vents, and remote controls are also considered when evaluating products, so Energy Star qualified products tend to have more features than others. This is because such features lend themselves to more efficient usage of a window air conditioner, i.e., using it when needed rather than just letting it run all the time.
According to the DOE and EPA, average cost savings for the life of an Energy Star room air conditioner is around $75.** That’s an average, but the more efficiently the unit is used, the greater the savings will be.
Whether or not one agrees with theories on global warming, everyone should be able to see that using less energy is a good thing. Pollution and diminishing fossil fuel supplies are enough reasons to make an effort at energy conservation. Of course ultimately we want to reduce the overall usage of energy consuming products. Unless the window air conditioner replaces a less efficient unit, buying a new one only increases overall consumption. But if one needs a window air conditioner, then buying an Energy Star qualified product is one of the easiest things a person can do to at least cut the amount by which they are increasing consumption.
So if you need a window air conditioner, check out our Energy Star qualified models and choose the right one for your room! To help choosing the right window air conditioner for your room, Consumer Reports has an easy worksheet for calculating your BTU needs at the website below. Please note that the worksheet is for window or wall air conditioners. Because of the necessities of their design, portable air conditioners are a bit less efficient, so the worksheet will underestimate the BTU's needed for a portable unit.
** This information and much more is available at the Energy Star website: