The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for residential central air conditioners (CACs), which are an ENERGY STAR-qualified product category. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies meet these efficiency requirements in all procurement and acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.
Most manufacturers display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. For a model not displaying this label, check the manufacturer's literature to determine if it meets the efficiency requirements outlined by ENERGY STAR.
Performance Requirements for Federal Purchases
For the most up-to-date efficiency levels required by ENERGY STAR, look for the ENERGY STAR label or visit ENERGY STAR product specifications.
Buying Energy-Efficient Central Air Conditioners
ENERGY STAR's Product Specification applies to central air conditioners that operate on single-phase current and have cooling capacities less than 65,000 Btu/h. Room air conditioners (window and through-the-wall) are covered by a separate specification, and packaged terminal units are excluded. For CACs purchased directly from commercial sources, specify or select products that are ENERGY STAR-qualified.
The seasonal energy efficiency ratio or SEER is shown on the yellow EnergyGuide label required on these products. The energy efficiency ratio (EER), which is considered a better measure for determining peak load, can typically be found in the manufacturer's product literature or website.
The federal supply source for CACs is the General Services Administration (GSA), which sells them through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage! Note that not all CACs sold through GSA are ENERGY STAR-qualified, and some products that do qualify may not be indicated as such. When buying CACs through this source, check the models you are considering against the CEE/ARI Directory.
These requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including guide and project specifications; construction, renovation, repair, energy service, operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; and solicitations for offers. Energy performance requirements should be included in all evaluations of solicitation responses. Buyers shall insert the standard clause from FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal facilities. Agencies can claim an exception to these requirements through a written finding that no ENERGY STAR-qualified or FEMP-designated product is life cycle cost effective for a specific application.
Federal buyers should require that CACs be installed in accordance with the HVAC Quality Installation (QI) Specification published by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. Installation problems like oversizing, improper charging, and leaky ducts result in efficiency losses, occupant discomfort, and shortened equipment life. Requiring the contractor to follow the HVAC QI Specification will assure that these and other problems are addressed and that the energy and cost savings are achieved.
Refrigerants with ozone destroying hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) were commonly used in CACs until recently. When retiring CACs that contain HCFCs, the Clean Air Act requires that certified technicians recover the refrigerant on-site and dispose of it in an environmentally-friendly manner.
Consider leaving CACs off during unoccupied hours, or using a programmable thermostat to minimize unnecessary operation of the unit. Regular maintenance (e.g., charging refrigerant, replacing filters, etc.) is necessary to maintain peak performance.
Estimating Energy and Cost Savings
ENERGY STAR has an Excel-based cost calculator for CACs. To modify the utility price, click on "Savings Calculator" in the column on the right and input the SEER and capacity of the CAC and the rate for electricity at your facility. The output section will automatically display results that more accurately reflect your energy use and cost.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.