University of Maryland researchers win top prize in DOE-sponsored competition

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently sponsored the Max Tech and Beyond Appliance Design Competition in an attempt to entice researchers to delve deeper into energy conservation research.

Scientists at the University of Maryland were awarded first place in the competition on August 31 for their design of an energy efficient air conditioner that would conserve more than 30 percent of the electricity used by a regular unit.

The researchers were able to reduce the amount of power used by a basic model by separating the parts of the air conditioner that remove humidity in the air from components that reduce a room's temperature. Instead of creating a new air conditioner, the researchers took apart a traditional unit, finding that by doing so the compressor consumes much less power.

Studies conducted at the University of Maryland found that air conditioners consume the most power of any appliance in the home, accounting for 16 percent of energy use on average.

The winning design is larger than a traditional model, as it is comprised of pieces from a traditional, deconstructed wall unit. However, the scientists at the University believe that with modifications, this prototype could be highly saleable in the future because of its efficiency.

Currently, most air conditioners reviewed by Consumer Reports are Energy Star certified, and are on average ten percent more power effiient than standard models. This means that until units similar to those developed by the winning design team hit the market, environmentally friendly options are available for buyers.

If a homeowner would like to do more to increase their house's electricity efficiency, an energy audit from a home inspection contractor can show them more ways to save on monthly utility bills.