This year, the Energy Star program is encouraging Americans to prepare their homes for summer and educating them about the benefits of servicing their cooling equipment. Energy Star, a government-sponsored program designed to help businesses and individuals protect the environment through energy efficiency, is a joint venture whose backers include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

In a new public relations campaign, the program suggests that homeowners have their cooling systems evaluated to determine if it is time for an energy-efficient upgrade. By waiting until an air conditioning system breaks down to replace it, Energy Star maintains, homeowners may find themselves without time to make an educated decision, and be forced to spend more money than necessary.

Energy Star suggests that an HVACR contractor inspect a home’s cooling equipment before it gets hot outside. This can prevent future problems and unwanted costs at the height of summer, when product demand is high and supply is low. Inspecting the equipment before the cooling season starts will also help ensure that homeowners have convenient access to a qualified HVACR technician, the program states.

Energy Star’s Web site ( notes that if a home’s central air conditioner is 10 years old or older, it may be time for a more efficient replacement. “A more energy-efficient home costs less to heat and cool and can improve both its comfort and value,” Energy Star states. The program also points out that with less energy use, homes are responsible for less air pollution. For example, if one household in 10 bought Energy Star-qualified heating and cooling equipment, the organization states, the change would prevent more than 17 billion pounds of air pollution.

According to the program, Energy Star-rated heating and cooling equipment, sized and installed correctly with a properly sealed duct system supporting it, can save consumers as much as 20 percent of their annual energy costs.

Earning The Energy Star

  • Central air conditioners: Energy Star-qualified central air conditioners are 25 percent more energy-efficient than standard equipment. Central air conditioners that have earned the Energy Star have a higher SEER rating than standard models. Since sizing and proper installation of a central air conditioning system are critical to energy efficiency, the program notes that it is important for homeowners to hire a qualified HVACR professional. Even the most energy-efficient unit will not perform well if it’s too large for the home or installed incorrectly.

  • Air-source and geothermal heat pumps: Air-source heat pumps must be at least 20 percent more efficient than standard models to earn an Energy Star rating. Geothermal heat pumps must be at least 30 percent more efficient than comparable equipment.

  • Programmable thermostats: Energy Star-qualified programmable thermostats allow homeowners to set the temperature settings for weekdays and weekends. According to the DOE, an Energy Star programmable thermostat will save the average homeowner about $100 each year when used properly.

    Contractors Can Help

    The DOE and the EPA note that homeowners can request Energy Star products from their local contractor. Both organizations also encourage consumers to use NATE-certified contractors when possible (, noting that the contractor should be able to properly calculate the needed size, accurately measure airflow, and perform a quality installation.

    The Energy Star program notes that there are other ways to save on energy costs and reduce pollution, including properly sealing the home. The more air that escapes through leaky doors and windows, improperly sealed ducts, or poorly insulated walls, the harder the cooling equipment has to work and the more homeowners will pay in fuel costs.

    Effective air sealing, combined with the right amount of insulation, can save up to 10 percent on energy bills, according to Energy Star.

    For more information, call 888-STAR-YES (888-782-7937) or visit

    Publication date: 04/14/2003