Impact of Installation Faults in Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps in Single-Family Homes on U.S. Energy Usage

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15 Scopus Citations


To ensure that new residential air conditioners and heat pumps operate optimally, care must be taken during the initial system design and installation to avoid missteps that immediately degrade a system's performance. Laboratory and simulation studies have quantified the impact that faults can have on capacity and efficiency. Field studies have demonstrated that installation-related faults are commonplace. However, the national impact of installation-related faults cannot be accurately estimated by only simulating a limited number of homes at several fault levels because of the variety of home characteristics and climates involved. In our analysis, we use an improved residential building stock simulation tool to predict the annual energy increase and additional utility costs resulting from two common installation faults: indoor airflow rate and refrigerant charge level. Our method considers the wide range of building characteristics and climate zones of the U.S. housing stock. We use existing field data to develop fault intensity probability distributions to inform our analysis. The analysis shows that these two faults result in approximately 20.7 TWh/y of additional energy use for central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps in U.S. single-family detached homes, which is a 9% increase over baseline (no-fault) usage, costing homeowners approximately $2.5 billion annually on utility bills. Air-source heat pumps are responsible for a disproportionate fraction of this energy use increase because of the larger number of operating hours compared to central air conditioners and the sensitivity of heating mode performance to the faults analyzed compared to cooling mode.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number115533
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-75261


  • Air conditioner
  • Building energy simulation
  • Fault
  • Heat pump
  • Installation quality
  • Refrigerant charge


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