Making Efficiency Cool

The Energy Star Program, created by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to reward the most efficient appliances on the market, includes room air conditioners. You can identify these units by the red Energy Star logo, which means they're certified to be 15 percent more efficient than those meeting minimum federal requirements. Those standards are 8 to 9 EER (depending on size and configuration), and will jump to 8.5 to 9.7 by 2000.

Another way to save is to buy a unit with an energy-miser or energy-saver option. Compared with most units, which switch off only the compressor when the desired temperature is reached, these air conditioners shut down completely — compressor, fan and all.

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