Resources / What You Should Know About Energy Efficiency

What You Should Know About Energy Efficiency

Heating and cooling systems are some of the most important investments you’ll ever make in your home. Whether you’re buying a new house, renovating an old one or making an emergency purchase because “old faithful” finally conked out, there’s a lot riding on the choices you make.  Your comfort and safety are at stake, but so is your wallet.

Americans typically spend about 46 cents of every dollar they pay in utility bills for “space conditioning.” You can lower those costs by selecting the most energy-efficient equipment that meets your needs and fits your budget.

The EnergyGuide label on home heating and cooling equipment is intended to help you do just that. These labels provide a “snapshot” of the more in-depth energy efficiency and usage information that manufacturers are required to provide with their products — generally through a fact sheet or industry association directory.

Why should I care about energy efficiency?

The total cost of an appliance has three components — the purchase price, the cost of repairs and maintenance, and the cost to operate it. The more energy efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run and the lower your utility bills. Using less energy is good for the environment, too; it can reduce air pollution and help conserve natural resources.

Is there really that much of a difference among the various models on the market?

All products must meet minimum energy efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy. But many products beat the standard, use even less energy and cost less to run.

What makes one system more efficient than another?

Most of the differences are on the inside — in the motors, compressors, pumps and valves. So even if two models look the same from the outside, these less-obvious features can mean a big difference in your monthly utility bills.

How can I be sure energy efficiency claims are not just sales hype?

Manufacturers must use standard tests developed by the Department of Energy to prove the efficiency of their products. Many have these tests performed by independent laboratories. The test results are reported on the EnergyGuide labels, and through fact sheets provided by the manufacturers or in industry association directories.

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For More Information

The Federal Trade Commission offers a wide range of business and consumer education information online at www.ftc.gov. This information also is available by calling the toll-free helpline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) (TDD: 202-326-2502) or by writing: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580.

The Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network offers a clearinghouse of energy-efficiency information at www.eren.doe.gov. This information also is available by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-800-DOE-EREC (363-3732) (TDD: 1-800-273-2957) or by writing: U.S. Department of Energy B EREC, PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116.

Your state and local energy offices and local utility company also may be valuable sources of information.

You can file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the Consumer Response Center by phone: toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357); TDD: 202-326-2502; by mail: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or through the Internet, using the online complaint form. Although the Commission cannot resolve individual problems for consumers, it can act against a company if it sees a pattern of possible law violations.

The FTC publishes free brochures on many consumer issues. For a complete list of publications, write for Best Sellers, Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20580; or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357), TDD 202-326-2502.

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