The Energy Star branch of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its listing of “most efficient” products for 2013, which includes heating and air conditioning systems.

According to Energy Star, the ratings are intended to drive more energy-efficient products into the market more quickly, with an ultimate goal of greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to forced air and geothermal comfort systems, the survey includes front line consumer products, such as refrigerators, televisions, computer monitors and windows, a new category for 2013.

Energy Star says the heating and cooling equipment deemed most efficient can save homeowners from 20 to 50% on heating and cooling costs. Geothermal savings can reach as high as 60%, sources say.

Other features that earned points with Energy Star evaluators are features such as communicating thermostats, that can aid in contractors’ system diagnoses and maintenance.

Heating and Cooling Brands Rated by Energy Star:
Bosch-Geo; Broan; Bryant; Carrier; ClimateMaster; Coleman; GeoComfort; GeoSystems; Hydron; Hydro-Temp; Lennox; Fraser-Johnston; Frigidaire; Fujitsu; LG; Luxaire; Maytag; Mitsubishi; Nutone; Rheem/Ruud; Tappan; Tetco; WaterFurnace; Westinghouse; York.

How Products are Tested
All Energy Star-certified products —including those that earn the Most Efficient 2013 designation — are tested in an EPA-recognized laboratory before they can carry the label. These laboratories are accredited to ISO/IEC 17025, an international standard for competence and impartiality of testing labs. Environmental conditions in which the product must be tested, such as temperature or humidity, are included in the test procedure cited in the specification. In addition to being tested in a lab, product data is reviewed by a third party certification body before it’s submitted to EPA. The laboratories and certification bodies are private organizations; EPA doesn’t conduct testing itself.

The key piece of energy efficiency data provides information about how a product actually performs. For boilers and furnaces, that key data is AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). This is a ratio of useful energy output to energy input. For example, a 90% AFUE for a gas furnace means it outputs 90 BTUs of useful heating for every 100 BTUs of natural gas input (where the rest may be wasted heat in the exhaust). Therefore, the higher the AFUE the better is the system’s efficiency.

For central air conditioners and heat pumps, the key data point for energy efficiency is EER (energy efficiency ratio). Similar to AFUE, EER is a ratio of output heating (or cooling) to energy input at a given operating point. The higher the EER rating, the more efficient is the equipment.

HVAC contractors must also be aware, however, that installed system performance is the sum of the efficiency of the products installed, combined with issues related to home insulation, building envelope, duct design and tightness, and proper load calculations and installation. As in other months, ContractingBusiness.com contains commentaries on the importance of total system performance in the efficiency picture. See bit.ly/HVACcomfort and bit.ly/Systemperformance.

To view the entire Energy Star HVAC product rankings, visit
bit.ly/EnergyStarratings2013.