Don’t get dazzled by these stars

Bureau of Energy Efficiency has just updated star rating standards for refrigerators and ACs, but the Indian rating system, especially for ACs, is still not as rigorous as the system in the West or even China

By Avikal Somvanshi
Last Updated: Wednesday 19 September 2018

India’s growing ghoulish appetite for artificial coolth got a healthy push during the onset of 2014. Summer is still a few months away but the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has updated its appliance star rating standards. This has pushed the efficiency standards for refrigerators up by two notches and for room air conditioners by a single notch. It is good news for our power plants as new appliances will consume less energy and bad news for our pockets as national media is reporting a possible hike of Rs 3,000-5,000 in the cost of these household appliances. But is the upgrade worth the price rise? And, more essentially, is it enough improvement to avert India’s power crisis? Let’s see.

New star rating essentially means that if one buys a 2star frost-free refrigerator in 2014, it is as energy efficient as 4star one bought in 2013 or 5star in 2010. Same way, a 2-star AC of 2014 would be as efficient as a 3star AC of 2013. Thus, it is erroneous to say that appliances will get dearer as one won’t have to pay more for the same model as price of the model should remain the same, only its rating will be downgraded. This also means that the lowest efficiency models will get removed from the market, forcing people to buy more efficient cooling appliances and in turn reducing per capita energy demand.


In the new regime there is a 36 per cent improvement in efficiency over last years but it makes really little economic sense to replace a 5star or 4star model bought after 2010 with the new one. But the real saving is for those who are still hooked on to pre-rating era refrigerators. (See table below)

Star ratings and savings comparison for a 250 litre, frost-free refrigerator

2013 Star Rating

Energy Consumed annually (in kWh)

2014 Star Rating

Energy Consumed annually (in kWh)

Prospective change in annual saving* (in Rs)

Prospective yearly savings by shifting from early 2000s model to a 2014 star rated model* (in Rs)

Prospective yearly savings by shifting from early 1980-90s model to a 2014 star rated model* (in Rs)




































* Rs6.4 per unit (Delhi unsubsidised power rates)

analysis by CSE based on BEE and Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission data


Ac’s star ratings have not been made significantly more stringent. It is just a six to seven per cent improvement in energy efficiency from existing system. Thus it makes even lesser sense than in the case of refrigerators to exchange a model made after 2010 for a newer one of same rating. In fact, a major chuck of super efficient AC models which were 5star in 2013 will remain 5star even in 2014; therefore, prices shouldn’t change for people investing in super efficient AC models. But this move is critical for first time buyers and people planning to replace pre-rating era AC units. (See table below)

Star ratings and savings comparison for a 2tonne AC

2013 Star Rating

Energy Consumed in a month (in kWh)

2014 Star Rating

Energy Consumed in a month (in kWh)

Prospective change in monthly saving* (in Rs)

Prospective monthly savings by shifting from early 2000s model to a 2014 star rated model* (in Rs)

Prospective monthly savings by shifting from early 1980-90s model to a 2014 star rated model* (in Rs)




































* Rs6.4 per unit (Delhi unsubsidised rates)

analysis by CSE based on BEE and Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission data

AC rating problems

Even though really small but this climbing up the ladder has finally brought the minimum efficiency standard for ACs in India almost at par with the international minimum standards. Which is great news as far as energy conservation targets are concerned. India’s 1star rated AC is now same as Australia’s 1star but India’s 5star is just a 2.5star in Australia; this is when Australia has a 10star rating programme for AC. And this is the case across all nations. Our best ACs are just not good enough by international standards. This raises apprehension about defining the maximum. What makes the issue more perplexing is the fact that BEE justified a lenient upgradation of AC star rating, citing lack of efficient technology. This is a rather strange explanation as the same companies are manufacturing and supplying super efficient models outside? Why they don’t supply them here? (See table below)

Comparison of energy efficiency standards of different countries


Minimum energy efficiency ratio (EER)* allowed

Maximum EER available

Average EER





























South Africa












*EER is in W/W format. 1W = 3.413 Btu/hr

Adapted from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory data

Efficiency Measure

An AC’s efficiency is measured in Energy Efficiency Ratio or EER. Indian rating system suffers from a bandwidth problem, which is very narrow. By narrow I mean that there is a very small difference between the efficiency levels between two successive ratings. Indian stars are just 0.2 EER apart while in Australia it is a difference of 0.5 EER, a 2.5 times broader bandwidth. This translates into miserly six to seven per cent improvement in appliance efficiency per star shift. This is unfair for both the consumer and super efficient models available in market which ideally should be 7star rated but get clubbed with all 5star rated units.

Further, Indian rating system is not as rigorous as rating system in Australia, the EU, USA or even China. Indian efficiency calculation is based on the appliance efficiency at its full capacity. Technically sound practice but in real life appliances majorly run on part capacity which is a less efficient mode. In layperson terms the appliance will always use more energy in operation compared to its rated value. This problem has been corrected in most of the other countries which factor in part-capacity while computing EER for AC model. Energy Star which is the rating followed in USA and Europe factors in varying climatic and temperature conditions also while calculating the EER, bringing the rated values closer to actual consumption. In other words, though a high star rating in India will mean higher savings but it will not be same as indicated by the BEE star label.

Future demand poses challenge

AC demand is growing rapidly at the rate of 20 per cent on average per year over the past 10 years and is likely to be a major contributor to India’s appetite for energy. In 2010, the room AC saturation amongst urban households was only three per cent compared to 100 per cent in China, according to National Sample Survey Office. Urban India seems to be going the China way in uptake of AC. The challenge staring us in the face is how we will be providing for extra energy needed to run an AC when we are struggling to provide electricity access to all.

Even with the star rating in place since 2006 and mandatory since 2010, the most sold models are 1star under new system. With national average EER of around to 2.9 our overall efficiency is one of the lowest in the world. In fact China has its minimum standard at 2.9 EER. BEE needs to push market towards higher efficiency models and needs to be more ambitious in target setting and force companies to make available best technology there in the world for Indian consumer. We as citizens also need to critically analyze our obsession with ACs and if we really need so many of them. We haven’t bought all our ACs yet and the government needs to ensure that we get better products from companies and not become dumping ground for inefficient technologies junked even by China.

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  • Thank you for the insight.

    Thank you for the insight. Inverter AC manufacturers have long been saying that their machines are "better than 5 star" so I knew there was some lacuna in the system. Now at least I know what it is.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • Local manufacturers has the

    Local manufacturers has the capability to produce air-conditioners with better EER for which they need to modify their in-house research and development instead of just assembling products imported from other countries.

    For reasons best known to the manufacturers they continue to assemble air-conditioners and mass marketing, making it as retail product where as the split air-conditioner marketed as retail product has lot of drawbacks as the installation is done by field people who are not trained.

    Thus the product starts malfunctioning due to faulty installation making customer torn between manufacturer dealer and installer. Unless customer is strong to take it through consumer forums they are made to suffer.

    Best way is to establish trained manpower for field installation and ensure guarantee instead of warranty by ensuring split AC is sold only through their authorized sales and service dealers who has infrastructure to carry out satisfactory installation and take care of after sales service.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • Thank you for good

    Thank you for good information to manufacture best ac to consume power energy 3 star or 5 star have best inverts to high capacity energy levels to occupy ac to dc power supply to best 5 star ac but also compare high rating 7 stars but they clubbed all 5 stars only so its best inverters to user satisfied
    starinverters|inverters in chennai

    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • Dear Avikal, Thank you for

    Dear Avikal,
    Thank you for such a wonderful post about the indian star rating system standards of AC's and Refrigerators. The above discussed tables shows that the star rating and saving comparison for both the refrigerators and AC really makes a economic sense to buy a new one.
    The energy efficiency ratio difference between the countries shows AC rating problems in india compared to the international standards.


    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • ABP power has been my go to

    ABP power has been my go to brand,
    Thanks heaps.


    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • Is Solar inverters popular in

    Is Solar inverters popular in India? The star rating does definitely mislead us. Thanks for the input.


    Posted by: Anonymous | 5 years ago | Reply
  • Thanks for this highly

    Thanks for this highly informative article. More people need to be made aware.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • Thank you for sharing the

    Thank you for sharing the vital information on Star ratings and our Indian standard ratings. it has helped me lot to decide the best AC for my house. If the consumption is low, then it is good to have 2 Star rating AC. Whereas if the consumption is high, then it is adviseable to use a 5 Star rating AC.

    Thanks again,
    Saurabh Singh

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • The Inverter AC are more

    The Inverter AC are more effecient then normal AC's needs to be proved with some statistics. Without this it is a notion that Inverter AC's are better.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • Star rating is ultimately a

    Star rating is ultimately a good thing for environment, and therefore I am less inclined to put it on a guillotine for being available at higher prices.

    But there is a scam that you should write about: tonnage.
    All sellers (and manufacturers) recommend an AC tonnage that is in faaar excess of what is required by your room.

    e.g: I was in the market to look for an AC for my living room + dining room (should be about 200+ sqft area).

    Without even asking about whether sun facing, shades, windows on sun facing side etc - they immediately concluded I require 1.5T AC.

    Honestly, after buying it and see it running in Delhi's peak summers - I find it laughable that the compressor duty cycle is less than 50%. Which means I could've easily done with 0.75T ac also!

    Posted by: Anonymous | 4 years ago | Reply
  • People seem to forget that the environment outside is heated up more when you use more ACs for cooling inside. the heat transferred from inside and heat generated by the electrical power used causes rise in temperature outside. it is a vicious circle and only benefits the AC companies. I do not know if the Buero really care about or has any way of quantifying this additional heat.

    Need alternatives.

    Posted by: Jaco Ookken | 3 years ago | Reply
    • Yeah all the heat in the world has been cause by us using AC's. Heck, even global warming must've been due to AC use...

      Posted by: Darshan | 2 years ago | Reply
  • but that 6 or 7 percent is also important
    we should think of saving electricity. i am student and was searching for difference in star ratings of appliances. we should not care of 5-6 thousands, instead we must focus on those 5-6%.

    Posted by: Deepanshu Rohilla | 3 years ago | Reply
  • Should we be going for solar cooling? In a hot country like India there is plenty of sunshine to power the absorption / adsorption coolers - and the technology has come a long way - plus what can beat free heat? Even if the EER is lower than the conventional cooling.

    Posted by: Mohan | 3 years ago | Reply
  • thanks for this valuable information. This helped me a lot in completing my assignment.

    Posted by: Yazhini | 2 years ago | Reply
  • how effective will be an ac with star ratings if the room where it is put is not fully closed

    Posted by: Ekta | 2 years ago | Reply
  • very useful insights. I always dont trust what the government says!

    Posted by: Savitha | 2 years ago | Reply
  • Really an eye opener... Kudos for the great article

    Posted by: Arjun P R | one year ago | Reply