Statutory changes to the way the humble air conditioner operates have the potential to dramatically reduce energy consumption levels.

According to figures from the US Department of Energy (DOE), residential air conditioning alone accounts for five per cent of all electricity consumed within the United States, costing homeowners over $11 billion per annum and releasing approximately 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The DOE has unveiled new efficiency standards for commercial rooftop air conditioning systems that it says could result in the biggest energy savings of any appliance standard ever drafted.

According to DOE, the new standards could save 11.7 quads of energy over the operating life of units sold for 30 years – equivalent to half of all the residential energy used in the United States within a single year, while helping to reduce carbon pollution by over 60 million metric tons through 2030.

“This [is] potentially the largest energy savings estimated for any efficiency standard issued by DOE to date,” said the White House in an official statement.

The new standards are part of a raft of measures announced simultaneously by the Obama administration which aims to shore up America’s energy efficiency and its usage of solar power.

In addition to strict energy consumption standards for HVAC systems, the executive measures include investment of $68 million in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas, and a program to build up a skilled workforce for the solar power sector.

The White House claims the net result of this latest swathe of measures will be a collective reduction in CO2 emissions of nearly 300 million metric tons over the next 15 years, savings of over $10 billion on utilities bills for American homes and businesses.

The executive measures come just as new energy conservation standards for refrigerators and freezers come into effect in the US which will see the majority of models reduce consumption levels by between 20 to 25 per cent. The refrigerator and freezer standards are based on a 2010 consensus recommendation made to the DOE by refrigerator manufactures, consumer groups, efficiency advocates and states.