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Walmart, Target Help Devise Efficient Air Con

Industry and government have jointly developed specifications for commercial air conditioners that can reduce energy use by up to 60 percent, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced.

The DOE worked with companies including Target and Walmart to develop performance criteria for 10-ton capacity commercial air conditioners, also known as rooftop units.

Units built to the specification will have an Integrated Energy Efficiency Rating (IEER) of 18 and use 50-60 percent less energy compared to the current ASHRAE 90.1-2010 standard, depending on location and facility type, the DOE said.

The specifications call for automated communications and diagnostic controls to ensure that the units operate at top energy and operational performance levels throughout their service lives.

If all the 10-ton commercial units sold in a year were built using these criteria, businesses could save about $50 million a year in energy costs, the DOE said.

“One of the most cost-effective ways for businesses to save money and improve their economic competitiveness is to reduce the energy needed to power their commercial buildings and facilities,” energy secretary Steven Chu said.  “The public-private efforts announced today are leveraging America’s leadership in innovation to advance clean energy, support U.S. manufacturers and help a broad cross section of businesses become more competitive.”

Commercial buildings account for 18 percent of U.S. energy use, the DOE said.

The DOE will offer interested manufacturers help in designing, constructing, measuring, and testing the new air conditioner units produced to this specification.

The technical help will be provided by DOE national laboratories including Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Target, Walmart and other commercial building owners have said they are interested in buying air conditioners that meet the new specifications, as long as manufacturers can produce the units at an affordable price with the features the companies need, the DOE said.

The DOE is running the initiative through its Commercial Building Energy Alliances, part of its Building Technologies Program, which works to develop technologies and processes for making buildings more energy efficient.

The full specifications are available here.

A summary of the specifications is available here, and a fact sheet here.

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