After a strong room air conditioner selling season that cleared warehouses at both the manufacturer and retail levels, suppliers are looking toward Summer 2000 with an array of new AC models that boast improved energy-efficiency ratios (EERs) and enhanced cosmetics.
With new, stricter energy requirements looming for the 2001 season, some room air manufacturers have chosen to make few changes in their lines for next summer.
Others are getting a head start on the new requirements by adding units with higher EERs to their product offerings for preseason marketing this fall and winter.
Some full-line manufacturers are adding upscale AC series to join their high-end lines of kitchen appliances. Electronic controls are moving down from the top-end price points to more moderate pricing levels as well.
Here's a look at what air conditioner manufacturers are highlighting for the 2000 selling season:
Amana is offering 14 "value" models and eight premium Quiet Zone units for next year, including a new 9,000-Btu, 10.0-EER unit in a small chassis.
Included in the Quiet Zone series is a SmartCool setting that uses a sensor to automatically adjust fan speed to maintain a selected room temperature.
Several models in the 5,000-Btu category have improved EERs.
The company has also added a new series of through-the-wall air conditioners under both its Amana and Goodman brands. The 11 new units range in capacity from 7,000 to 11,000 Btu.
Carrier has reduced operating noise in a new series of air conditioners ranging from 5,000 to 12,000 Btu. The company also offers an eight-model series with electronic operation and remote control, plus two Holiday floorstanding portables.
Danby Products' latest room air line, called the Millennium series, includes its first units sporting electronic remote controls with LED displays; the units also have Eurostyle cabinetry.
For the first time with this line, Danby is packaging instructional videos that include an installation guide with all room air conditioners sold for the 2000 season.
Fedders is highlighting the 6,000-Btu Eurostyle portable air conditioner/dehumidifier it first introduced a year ago. The company has also improved EERs on a few room units.
Friedrich has added two new sizes -- 7,000 and 8,000 Btu -- to its Zstar promotional series.
Three QuietMaster electronic models now offer remote-control operation, and four carryover QuietMaster units have improved EERs for next year. Friedrich has also improved the sound levels on 16 room units for quieter operation and has enhanced packaging on all standard line models.
Frigidaire now has 10 models, ranging in capacity from 5,000 to 29,000, that offer electronic controls. Many of those units are found in the company's new Frigidaire Gallery room air series, joining the firm's upscale Gallery line of kitchen appliances.
The Gallery AC models also feature an enhanced, 10-year warranty on the compressor (all through-the-wall and slider/casement models have also been given the Gallery designation).
Frigidaire has also redesigned the front panels on its compact and intermediate-size air conditioners for a more contemporary look, with rounded corners and lift-out filter removal.
GE Appliances has used its Six Sigma design process to develop a new GE Profile line of seven upscale room air conditioners with electronic controls and remote operation, plus delay/stop timers.
The company is also bringing back its Carry Cool designation for a 5,000-Btu, 8.5 EER portable in a plastic cabinet with built-in handles.
Two new GE Deluxe units in 6,000- and 8,000-Btu capacities have EERs of 10.0. All but a few models in the 2000 room air line meet the 2001 energy standards, according to GE.
Haier America Trading has four models that meet the new Department of Energy requirements, and two of those qualify for participation in the EnergyStar program. The units offer three cooling speeds, adjustable thermostat and four-way air direction; two units, with capacities of 9,000 and 12,800 Btu, have a slide-out chassis and automated Air Swing.
LG Electronics reportedly will offer its largest room air conditioner ever for the U.S. market, a 24,000 Btu unit for the upcoming summer season. The company also has improved the EERs on a number of models to comply with the 2001 standards.
Electronic touch controls and automatic temperature adjustment are found on three models in the company's M series.
Panasonic has five new room air conditioners for the 2000 season, in capacities from 5,000 to 20,000 units. The company's room air line boasts increased EERs and improved filtration using the E-Plus electrostatic system.
Samsung is adding several room air conditioners with electronic touch controls to its line for the 2000 season, in capacities ranging from 6,000 to 18,000 Btu. Several models include an automatic air swing feature.
Sharp Electronics' room air line for next year is unchanged from the 1999 season because major modifications are planned for 2001 to comply with the new energy regulations. For 2000 the company is offering 14 room air units ranging in capacity from 5,000 to 23,700 Btu. EERs range from 8.0 to 10.0.
Whirlpool offers the first two models in a planned series of SurroundCool room air conditioners. The 5,000- and 7,000-Btu units are designed to provide more even air circulation by sending the cool air out from the cabinet's sides and top, rather than out the front. They are also said to be significantly quieter in operation.
Both models are fully electronic, with remote control as an accessory. Cabinets have been redesigned with rounded corners and back.
The balance of the Whirlpool line remains unchanged.