Energy Star Air ConditionersEnergy Star Central Air Conditioners | It is not an unusual question. What is an Energy Star air conditioner and what makes it better than an air conditioner that is not Energy Star rated? We get this question from time to time in our email for different types of HVAC systems including air conditioners. Many people want to get the best efficiency from their air conditioners including any other types of HVAC systems they have in their home. They want efficiency basically because it saves them money while they can stay comfortable. With energy costs rising from electric bills to other utility costs it is important to get the most efficient type of HVAC system you can buy. Will an Energy Star rated air conditioner save you money? Is it the best you can get to save money on your utilities? We will answer those questions in this article as there is no simple answer to these questions.

Energy Star Central Air Conditioners | Testing for Eligibility

When an air conditioner manufacturer want the Energy Star label they have to apply for it when the system is initially tested in an independent testing lab. They pay the fee for testing and an application fee for the testing and the Energy Star rating they want to receive. The air conditioner is then put through a series of tests by the testing lab and if they pass all the qualifications they can put the Energy Star label on that particular model of air conditioner. Then, on an annual basis they get retested to ensure they meet the basic qualifications for using the label. The Energy Star label is basically a marketing bonus for contractors as it tells potential buyers that the unit meets basic requirements per Energy Star guidelines. The testing is approved by Energy Star but derived from other professional organizations to make sure the testing is congruent and fair for all manufacturers.

Testing is done industry-wide by AHRI. They are the independent lab that does testing for HVAC equipment throughout the entire domestic HVAC industry. The standards for the testing are from a few professional organizations including:

  • ASHRAE - American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • ANSI – The American National Standards Institute

Energy Star Central Air Conditioners | Minimum Efficiency

Energy Star Central Air Conditioners | Includes Central Heat Pumps

Equipment (Central Air Source Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners) *does not include ground source geothermal heat pumpsSpecification for Equipment to Use the Energy Star logo
Air-Source Heat Pumps≥ 8.5 HSPF/ ≥15 SEER/ ≥12.5 EER* for split systems
≥ 8.2 HSPF ≥15 SEER/ ≥12 EER* for single package equipment including gas/electric package units.
Central Air Conditioners≥15 SEER/ ≥12.5 EER* for split systems
≥15 SEER/ ≥12 EER* for single package equipment including gas/electric package units.
Definitions for the Above Table (provided by Energy Star*):

Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) is the total space heating required in region IV during the space heating season, expressed in Btu, divided by the total electrical energy consumed by the heat pump system during the same season, expressed in watt-hours.

EER is the ratio of the average rate of space cooling delivered to the average rate of electrical energy consumed by the air conditioner or heat pump. This ratio is expressed in Btu per watt.h (Btu/W.h).

SEER is the total heat removed from the conditioned space during the annual cooling season, expressed in Btu, divided by the total electrical energy consumed by the air conditioner or heat pump during the same season, expressed in watt-hours.

Air-Source Heat Pump (ASHP) – air-source unitary heat pump model is a product other than a packaged terminal heat pump, which consists of one or more assemblies, powered by single phase electric current, rated below 65,000 Btu per hour, utilizing an indoor conditioning coil, compressor, and refrigerant-to-outdoor air heat exchanger to provide air heating, and may also provide air cooling, dehumidifying, humidifying circulating, and air cleaning.

For more information on efficiency definitions you may want to visit our efficiency definition posts.

Conclusion | Energy Star Central Air Conditioners

So, to answer the initial questions, yes, an air conditioner with an Energy Star label can save you money. However, it doesn’t matter what the level of efficiency is or if it has an Energy Star label you will not get the rated efficiency if the unit is not installed properly. Good installation is essential for good efficiency. An example of this is an air conditioner installed in an existing home with bad duct work. If the duct work is leaky and not properly insulated then all that efficiency will be leaky out of the duct work instead of being delivered into the home. So, look at the overall picture and get the ductwork fixed or replaced before spending a lot of money on a Cadillac system. Otherwise, you will be getting a Cadillac electric bill.

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Energy Star Central Air Conditioners

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