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 qualification of selected products. I think many people have been much like me when it comes to the Energy Star label: 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 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 Energy Star products are a good idea regardless of one’s belief on global warming.
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, a new one only increases overall consumption. But if one needs a window air conditioner, then choosing 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.
Now for the more personal reason: 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 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). Window air conditioners that have the qualification tend to be a bit more expensive than those that don’t. Depending on how much the unit is used, eventually any up-front cost difference will likely be made up in energy savings. According to the DOE and EPA, average cost savings for the life of an Energy Star room air conditioner is around $75.*
But that’s not the only criteria for qualification. Features like digital display, timers, directional vents, and remote controls are also considered when evaluating products, so 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. The more efficiently the unit is used, the greater the savings will be. So pay attention and choose products with Energy Star qualification. You’ll feel better and save money!