Sears HomeCentral Offers Solutions to Lower Energy Bills

Summer Cooling Costs Likely to Increase and High Home Heating Bills Expected Next Winter: Now is the Time to Plan Ahead and Save

The American Gas Association reports that it could take six, 12 or 18 months for natural gas prices to moderate as fresh gas supplies come into the market -- meaning, as recent articles have reported, consumers are likely to continue paying higher energy bills throughout 2001. Sears HomeCentral® advises homeowners to reevaluate one of the biggest contributors to higher bills -- their home heating and cooling systems.

An Associated Press poll taken at the end of January 2001 revealed that 51 percent of respondents felt the higher prices for natural gas, home heating oil and gasoline have affected them a lot personally. According to the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network (EREN) website, heating and cooling a home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in the home. On average, 44 percent of a homeowner's utility bill is for heating and cooling. EREN advises that consumers can save money and increase comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading their equipment.

"There are two paths consumers can take when it comes to their heating and cooling systems," said Joseph Muley, vice president and general manager, heating, ventilating and air conditioning for Sears HomeCentral. "The first is to have the unit checked to be sure it's operating as efficiently as it should be. The second, for systems not operating properly, is to upgrade to an energy-efficient system."

The experts at Sears HomeCentral recommend a preventive maintenance check of heating and cooling systems for two reasons: to ensure the units are operating safely and efficiently, and to save during summer's heat as well as next winter's blast. Scheduling a check before using the air conditioner for the first time is the smart approach to avoid getting caught in the seasonal rush when the heat of summer hits. If a maintenance check reveals poor efficiency, homeowners should consider investing in a new system that offers higher efficiency.

"Sears HomeCentral understands what consumers have been going through with energy bills and their plans to keep costs down," added Muley. "We also know most homeowners would appreciate some incentives at this time either for investing in a new system or having their current heating and cooling system checked."

In response to the energy cost situation, Sears HomeCentral is extending its pre-season zero percent financing for one full year, compared to its usual six months, on the purchase of new energy efficient systems such as Trane® and Kenmore®. In addition, homeowners interested in having their current cooling systems inspected before the cooling season starts can schedule a preventive maintenance check with savings of 40 percent or more off the regular price from now until the end of April. Service appointments for preventive maintenance checks and free in-home estimates on new systems and can be scheduled by calling 1-800-4-MY-HOME or by going to .

ENERGY STAR and the SEER Rating

The energy star label from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ensures that products carrying the label are energy-efficient. The EPA reports that Energy Star-labeled systems can save homeowners from 15 to 40 percent on their energy bills when installed properly.

High efficiency systems offer consumers different levels of Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings (SEER) for their cooling element, an area that recently received national attention. Before the end of their term, the Clinton administration announced a tighter energy-efficiency standard for central air conditioners, requiring a SEER 13 compared to the previous SEER 10. While the standard does not go into effect until 2006, the experts at Sears HomeCentral suggest that homeowners consider upgrading to SEER 13, as most systems last at least 10 to 15 years when properly maintained.

"Purchasing an energy efficient system is a smart investment not only because it can end up paying for itself over time, but also because you will have the latest technology and will meet current standards," added Muley. "Having an existing system checked out ahead of time brings peace of mind about safety as well as efficiency, so whichever option homeowners choose, they'll come out ahead."

Sears HomeCentral is the nation's largest home repair provider in terms of the number of home repair specialists, with more than 12,000 trained technicians making approximately 14 million repairs annually. Sears repair specialists are trained through the Sears Technological Institute, which is the first fully accredited educational institution of its kind in the U.S. Technicians make over 200,000 in-home repair visits per week and service most major brands no matter where the customer purchased the product.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. (NYSE: S) is a leading U.S. retailer of apparel, home and automotive products and services, with annual revenue of more than $40 billion. The company serves families across the country through approximately 860 department stores, more than 2,100 specialized retail locations, and a variety of online offerings accessible through the company's Web site, .

SOURCE: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Contact: Edgar P. McDougal of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 847-286-9669


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