August 14, 2011

Guideline for buying AC's

Star cooling, trim bills
During summers, it is a trade-off between comfort and increased consumption. But in the last few years, there has been conscious effort to make air conditioners more energy efficient to optimise power consumption.
Peak summer is over, one would say, but the sun doesn't seem to know that. It beats down mercilessly still, as if it were April or May, and one is barely able to wean away from the air conditioners(ACs), even if one wants to. It is normal to have electricity bills creep up to four digits, and even if you don't want to, you end up fitting an AC in every room. Global warming is no joke, after all.
But it is not just about the money one has to pay. It is also about the fact that there is a power shortage, and conservation has become the byword. "The efficiency of the ACs are being continuously improved to get lesser electricity loads and give lower running cost to the consumer," says Ajay Bajaj, Business Head - Air Conditioners, LG Electronics.

Focus on conservation
The Bureau of Energy Efficiency, set up under the Energy Conservation Act of 2002, introduced a star-labelling programme to ensure that all appliances reach a minimum level of energy efficiency. Depending on their energy efficiency they are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 and this is indicated by stars for easy understanding. The higher the number of stars, better is the energy efficiency.

Currently there are 12 products under the scheme, and of these, four products are under the mandatory labelling regime -- frost-free refrigerators, room air conditioners, tubular fluorescent lights (TFLs) and distribution transformers (DTRs). According to the National Productivity Council, in 2009-10, the entire Standards and Labelling Programme introduced by BEE has resulted in electricity saving of 4350.92 million units, equivalent to avoided generation capacity of 2179.31 MW. (Source: NPC Verification Report).

"Higher star ratings for air conditioners mean higher levels of energy efficiency, leading to less consumption of energy and lowering of consumers' energy bills," says Dr. Sandeep Garg, Energy Economist, who drives the Standards and Labelling Programme at BEE. "Assuming an air conditioner is operating for eight hours a day and five months a year, the broad cost saving per annum of a star rated AC with reference to a non star rated AC ranges from Rs.300 for a one star machine to Rs 2050 for a five star AC," he adds.

Energy-efficient appliances consume less energy and reduce household energy bills. For example, a three-star rated 1.5 ton AC would, over a year, use 320 kWh less than a 1-star AC in a Delhi home where, on an average, it is used for 1600 hours a year. Similarly, the savings for a 5-star AC would be 650 kWh in a year. The star label thus allows a consumer to decide whether he wants a 1-star AC or a 3-star AC or a 5-Star AC. "Both a 3-star and 5-star AC provide greater savings than a 1-star AC, but their costs are also higher; consumers get a trade off between the purchase price of the AC on the one hand, and the electricity bills due to the AC on the other," explains Garg.

According to the National Productivity Council, the estimated energy savings due to a star labelled air-conditioner is 1090.18 MU. The corresponding reduction in avoided generation capacity is 1455.89 MW.

The split
As Ravindra Zutshi, Deputy MD, Samsung India, points out, their entire AC line-up is Star rated, with 14 models being 5 star rated. A further improvement, he adds, "The new Invincia series of Split Air Conditioners comes equipped with Smart Inverter technology that saves up to 60 percent power when the AC is on and almost zero standby power when the AC is off."
Earlier, only split ACs used to come with the rating. Says Bajaj, "Window ACs, as compared to splits, have design limitation and hence it took time to come up with the 5 star rating in window models."

Garg adds that the star rating system determines the energy efficiency of all room air conditioners - window ACs and split ACs. "As per an industry estimate, 65 percent of the Indian air conditioner market is in the split AC segment, while the rest is the window ACs. While split ACs have more five star models, five star rated window ACs too have come into the market, thus widening the choice for buyers," he says.

Certified by BEE
The energy efficiency ratio of an AC depends on two factors: Cooling capacity (in BTU) and Power consumption (in Watts). Star rating is based upon the EER of an AC, which is cooling capacity divided by power consumed. To calculate EER in watts, BTU needs to be converted into watts. 12000 BTU is equal to 3517 watts or 1BTU = 0.2937 Watts or one ton = 3517 watts.
Explains Bajaj, "The cooling capacity of one ton AC should be 12000 BTU, 1.5 ton AC 18000 BTU. Some companies rate their air conditioners as 1 ton but actually their cooling capacity is less than 12000 BTU. So the BEE has brought into force star rating system so that the manufacturers cannot misguide the consumers."

BEE provides these ratings based on the test certificates submitted by manufacturers with reference to the respective national/international standards. For example, for air conditioners, the reference standard is IS1391.
Under its Standards and Labelling programme, BEE has set the energy efficiency standards for the appliances covered under the scheme. BEE has institutionalized and developed a strong delivery mechanism for energy efficiency services in the country and has carried out coordination between the various entities, Garg stresses.

With the success of the labelling programme, India saved 3039.1 MW of avoided capacity in 2009-2010, he adds.

Size does matter
While buying an AC, one is also bogged down by the tonnage requirement. The larger the room the higher would be the tonnage requirement of an AC to cool it effectively. A small room of 10m x 10m x 10m dimension would require a one ton machine to cool it effectively. A higher tonnage would mean more energy consumption and higher energy bills. However, energy efficient machines (with star ratings) would not only help conserve energy but also prevent inflated power bills. Thus, it is critical for consumers to look at star ratings of ACs before purchasing them, points out Garg.

Bajaj also stresses, "While it is important to choose an AC with higher star rating, it is equally important not to compromise on the cooling capacity, which is the primary function of an AC."

Garg cautions that the most important issue in deciding to invest in an energy-efficient appliance is to ensure that you buy an appliance of the size that you need. "A very large refrigerator - even if it is 5-star - does not make sense for a two member family, and will certainly use more energy than a smaller refrigerator."

AC buying now was never just about which model one likes (neither the model in the ad, nor the AC model). It is about size, and now, about how efficiently it conserves energy as well. While the efficiency being built in makes life easier for the consumer, there is also a need to be aware of which of the ratings work for the customer - where usage of AC is high, such consumers will do well to go for 5-star rated models to conserve energy and bring their electricity bills lower.

Courtesy:The Hindu - Retail Plus

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