Air conditioners: green buying guide 6/11
(This article is adapted from July 2011 ConsumerReports.org air conditioner buying guide.)
Low prices and high efficiency make room air conditioners an inexpensive alternative to central air for cooling one or two rooms. Some smaller 5,000- to 6,000-Btu units now cost less than $150 and are among the top sellers. The key is finding the most energy-efficient model that fits your particular room.
The 39 models in Consumer Reports latest tests all were good at cooling and all the models meet the 9.7 Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) now required for small and medium-sized models below 8,000 British thermal units (Btu) per hour, and the 9.8 EER required for larger, 8,000- to 13,999-Btu models.
Most also meet or exceed the 10.7 EER needed to qualify for Energy Star. And all now have electrical plugs that help prevent fires by shutting down if the power cord is damaged.
An air conditioner with a timer can be turned off when you're out or set to turn on just before you expect to get home. An energy-saver setting stops the fan when the compressor is off. Look for these features and you’ll save energy.
How to choose
To determine the proper size for your room, measure the square footage of the area you want to cool. Increase capacity for a kitchen or a room usually occupied by more than two or three people.
You can also use an Air Conditioner Sizing Worksheet to help you calculate how powerful and air conditioner you would need.
Watch an air conditioner video buying guide to learn more.
Remember that the more off-center your window, the more an air conditioner's air direction matters. So be sure to check the airflow vents to see if they will channel the air flow in the right direction for your room.
• Energy Star-qualified models claim to use at least 10 percent less energy than standard models and about 25 percent less juice than models made a decade ago. Related links
• Don't lower the set temperature as soon as you turn on the unit. It doesn't cool the room faster, and it will use more energy.
• A higher fan speed also uses more energy, but not much.
• Models with digital temperature readouts provide a more precise reading than the traditional "warmer" and "cooler" settings.
• To keep your unit running efficiently, vacuum, wash, and dry filters monthly, or as needed.
• Find out whether replacing your old air conditioner makes sense by using the savings calculator on the room air conditioners page at www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=roomac.pr_properly_sized. (Every 0.1 increase in the Energy Efficiency Ratio translates into about a 1 percent drop in electricity use.)
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A cool Kuhl and other red-hot air conditioners. 5/11
Beat the heat and tune up your air conditioner now. 5/11
Energy Star Room Air Conditioners: General Government Information.