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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Determining benefits and costs of improved central air conditioner efficiencies


Economic impacts on individual consumers from possible revisions to U.S. residential-type central air conditioner energy-efficiency standards are examined using a life-cycle cost (LCC) analysis. LCC is the consumer's cost of purchasing and installing a central air conditioner and operating it over its lifetime. This approach makes it possible to evaluate the economic impacts on individual consumers from the revised standards. The methodology allows an examination of groups of the population which benefit or lose from suggested efficiency standards. The results show that the economic benefits to consumers due to modest increases in efficiency are significant. For an efficiency increase of 20percent over the existing minimum standard (i.e., 12 SEER), 35percent of households with central air conditioners experience significant LCC savings, with an average savings of $453, while 25percent show significant LCC losses, with an average loss of $158 compared to a pre-standard LCC average of $5,170. The remainder of the population (40percent) are largely unaffected.

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