New Residential AC Efficiency Levels could save consumers $38 billion

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Around 60 percent of U.S. households have a central cooling system, and most new homes are built with central air conditioning, so a change in standards would have widespread effects.

April 08, 2016

Many of us grew up with at least one parent who was vigilant about air conditioning use. Even on a 90-degree day with 95 percent humidity, asking to turn on the AC would be met with: “No! Air conditioning costs money.”

Soon air conditioning may cost significantly less, thanks to an agreement by industry and efficiency advocates to increase central cooling system efficiency. A new standard, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, could save consumers $38 billion over the life of the rule.

Around 60 percent of U.S. households have a central cooling system, and most new homes are built with central air conditioning, so a change in standards would have widespread effects.

“The energy and bill savings from the recommended new central AC and heat pump standards will really add up for consumers and the nation,” Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and the ASRAC (Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee) representative on the working group, said in a release. “Savings will reach about 300 billion kilowatt-hours on sales over 30 years (enough to cool 150 million average homes for a year) and $38 billion in bill savings.”

The most recent proposal will work with previous consensus standards issued in 2011 and 2006. Combined, these three standards would raise central air conditioning and heat-pump efficiency by about 50 percent in a period of less than 20 years.

Once the DOE approves the latest round of standards, the new energy-efficiency levels will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. These standards will achieve a 7 percent savings, which will amount to the power used by 27 million households per year.

In addition to saving money, the new standards will help reduce air pollution. “Standards set according to this agreement are expected to save 13 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, adding up to the 2.2 billion metric tons already on the books toward meeting President Obama’s 3 billion ton goal from standards set during this administration,” writes Meg Waltner, manager for the Building Energy Policy, Energy & Transportation Program, in her Natural Resources Defense Council blog.

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