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You’re probably aware of different ways to save energy and money in your home: unplugging appliances when you’re not using them, only washing full loads of laundry, and installing LED light bulbs. But what about your HVAC system? An Energy Star rating can help you choose the optimal system to fill those needs.

What is Energy Star?

It’s likely that you’ve seen the blue and white Energy Star sticker on various appliances. It indicates that a product has met rigorous EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards for energy efficiency, as well as reduction of harmful emissions. In 2020 alone, Energy Star helped consumers save over 520 billion kilowatt-hours of energy (a measure of how much power an electrical appliance consumes) and $42 billion in energy costs.

How Does a Product Get a Star?

First, the product needs to get the Department of Energy (DOE) “Energy Guide” label. This is a yellow label that you’ve probably seen on various products. It lists the results of their tests: the amount of energy used compared to other products and yearly operating costs. If a product meets these criteria, the yellow label will receive an Energy Star sticker.

How Does Energy Star Help You Make Purchases?

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new furnace. You don’t really know a lot about furnaces or their energy consumption. Still, you want one that isn’t an energy hog and can reduce your bills. You don’t want to get tangled up in lots of research, legwork and expense. You don’t want to investigate how much more energy one saves than others. Enter Energy Star. Energy Star does the heavy lifting for you.

You’ll immediately know which ones are the most energy-efficient and be able to make an informed purchase.

How Does a Product Qualify for Energy Star?

Products earn the sticker when they meet strict standards including:

  • Products must offer substantial nationwide energy savings.
  • The product’s energy consumption is measurable through testing. This is done by an objective third party.
  • If the product costs more than a less efficient counterpart, buyers will receive a return on their investment via utility bill savings.
  • In addition to increased energy efficiency, products must meet the performance and features requirements of consumers.

The specifics, however, vary for each appliance. For instance, qualified furnaces must have a rating of 90 percent AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) or greater. This number indicates how much of the fuel a furnace consumes is actually transformed into usable heat.

If only a single household in 10 bought Energy Star heating and cooling systems, it would thwart 13 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year. This equates to emissions from 1.2 million cars.

How Can Energy Star Help My HVAC System?

By reducing energy costs and increasing efficiency, Energy Star can benefit your entire HVAC system:

  • Air Source Heat Pump: Approximately half of the average American household’s energy bill is spent on heating and cooling. This equals more than $900 a year. An Energy Star-verified air source heat pump will save you money and energy throughout the year.
  • Hot Water with a Heat Pump Water Heater: After your refrigerator, the biggest energy hog in your home is the water heater. An Energy Star-certified heat pump water heater uses a whopping 70 percent less energy. This can save a family of four more than $400 a year in comparison to a regular heater.
  • Older Furnaces: If your furnace is more than 20 years old, it’s likely operating at an energy efficiency deficit. If you install a new Energy Star system, the equipment could save you about $200 a year.
  • Geothermal HVAC: An Energy Star geothermal system uses 61 percent less energy that a regular one. This adds up to a savings of about $830 a year, and over $9,800 over the system’s approximately 15-year lifespan.
  • Air Conditioners: An air conditioner certified by Energy Star uses 8 percent less energy than standard models.

How Does Energy Star Affect New Homes?

If a one- or two-family home has fewer than three stories, and it’s at least 15% more efficient than the International Residential Code (IRC) of 2004, it can earn the Star label. The IRC establishes regulations for plumbing, building, fuel gas, mechanical, electrical procedures and energy. Among other criteria, the house must have efficient cooling and heating systems.

How Much Does It Cost to Convert to Energy Star?

In the beginning, converting to Energy Star can be expensive. Manufacturers must spend money to research and develop energy upgrades. The cost of these innovations is absorbed by the customer. Over time, however, you can recover the cost via lower utility bills. Some local governments and the federal government motivate buyers to convert to Energy Star by offering rebates and tax breaks.

When it’s time to improve your HVAC’s efficiency, look for equipment with the Energy Star label. However, understanding Energy Star ratings associated with your HVAC can be a bit puzzling. Progressive Air Systems’ experts can help clarify what Energy Star means to you and your home and how it can help make your HVAC more energy-efficient and cost-effective.

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