Getting More Energy Efficiency From Air Conditioners

When it’s hot outside and your central air conditioner needs to be replaced, most people may think the energy efficiency rating of a unit is the most important factor to consider.

It’s not. The most important factor is making sure the air conditioning system is installed and functioning properly.

To ensure homeowners are getting the most from air conditioning systems, the California Energy Commission is holding a workshop August 3 in Irwindale to gather input on a plan. The plan would outline a set of strategies that – if effectively implemented – will improve the compliance of central (ducted) air conditioning systems, especially in existing homes and small commercial buildings, with the Building Energy Efficiency Standards.

Under Senate Bill 1414, the Energy Commission is required to approve a plan by January 2019 to promote compliance with the building standards in installing central air conditioners and heat pumps.

Unlike electric appliances that need only be plugged in and turned on, central air conditioners are part of a complex system, which includes ductwork and refrigerant lines, that needs to be tested after installation.

A code-compliant air conditioning system improves comfort and indoor air quality by reducing the duct leakage that wastes energy and introduces unhealthy air from attics and garages.

The building standards require a certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) professional test each system after installation to verify that it meets code. If verification does not happen, the new air conditioner may operate at only half its rated efficiency, reducing comfort, shortening equipment life, and increasing utility bills.

Consumers are encouraged to complete a permit with the local building department and request their contractor schedule a HERS inspection after installation. Doing so will reap long-term energy and money savings.

Demand for air conditioning systems increases at the end of a hot day, when electricity is most expensive. Improving the energy efficiency in new systems reduces the stress on the electrical grid.

More on the plan is here or by subscribing to the efficiency list serve.

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Energy Efficiency

California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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