DUBAI // Up to one in five air-conditioning units could be banned for failing to meet energy efficiency requirements when a new rating scheme is introduced next year.
The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma) intends to rate window and split-unit systems from one to five. Five will represent the most efficient, with the various levels indicated to the consumer by a sticker on the exterior packaging.
Last year 400,000 of the units were sold in the UAE. Mohammed Badri, Esma's acting director, expected that 20 per cent of those models would not meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements under the new system.
"Some models will be banned because they consume a lot of energy with low efficiency," said Mr Badri. Larger chiller units used to provide cooling in buildings will not be affected.
Air-conditioning units, large and small, represented the country's most pervasive energy drain, consuming 70 per cent of all electricity used in the UAE, said Mr Badri.
Although efficiency ratings are common in the West, Esma's initiative will be the first time a Gulf country has taken on the task.
The scheme would increase transparency and help consumers to make more educated choices, said Mr Badri.
"With this scheme, consumers will have the right to choose what they want," he said.
Esma is using an international ranking of efficiency that divides the cooling capacity of each air conditioner by the total electrical input. A ratio of 10 or higher is considered the most energy efficient. Esma has made a ratio of 5.9 its minimum requirement of energy efficiency.
Mathew Varughese, the general manager of the building services division of the retailer Jumbo Electronics, said Esma should have chosen a higher standard. A ratio of at least eight, he said, would push manufacturers to change their products.
"The higher the energy efficiency ratio, the less energy will be consumed," he said. "Manufacturers will have to gear up and bring out energy-efficient models."
Hans Altman, the Middle East and North Africa regional manage for Techem Energy Services, which provides advanced metering services and advises on ways to reduce electricity consumption, said at least the initiative would eliminate the worst offenders.
"We have a big problem here that we have many low-budget gadgets that are cheap and may consume more energy in one year than what you pay for them initially," he said.
Ida Tillisch, an activist from the Emirates Wildlife Society - World Wide Fund for Nature, said that considering the UAE's large ecological footprint, any steps to tackle energy consumption were welcome.
"Facilitating the availability of energy efficient solutions in the marketplace will assist consumers in making decisions to reduce energy consumption," she said, explaining that it could be difficult for consumers to know which appliances were efficient and which were not.
"We encourage consumers to request answers from suppliers to what the energy rating is and in general do some research before purchasing any energy-consuming appliance to ensure they buy the most efficient one," she said.
Khaled Bushnaq, the chief executive officer of Energy Management Services, a consultancy, agreed the scheme was a good first step forward.
"Any improvement in the efficiency of air-conditioning will have a very big impact on consumption," he said.
He said that split-unit and window air-conditioners were also bought in bulk by developers and often pricing was a decisive factor.
"Designers usually specify fairly good equipment," said Mr Bushnaq. "However, landlords tend to go for cheaper units and, unfortunately, cheaper ones usually have lower efficiency.
"It is a good step to rate window and split units, but chillers are also important to monitor."
The experts suggested that the Government considers additional measures to trim the nation's energy consumption habits, such as changing building standards to demand more energy efficient cooling measures and raising electricity tariffs.
AIR CONDITIONING FACTS
20 - estimated percentage of air-conditioning units that will not meet requirements
70 per cent of all electricity in the country is consumed by air-conditioning units
10 - the international highest score used to rank the energy efficiency of an air-conditioning unit
5.9 - the international score on which the UAE will base new minimum energy efficiency standards