The Department of Energy (DOE) has ordered AeroSys, Inc. to stop distributing two product models -- one air conditioner and one heat pump -- that DOE testing found to consume more energy than allowed under federal efficiency standards.

This marks the first time DOE has told a company or manufacturer that it must halt the distribution of products that fail to meet minimum conservation standards, and follows an investigation into whether AeroSys has been selling products that violate minimum appliance efficiency standards.

The department "will act aggressively to remove any products from the market that are violating national appliance standards," said DOE General Counsel Scott Blake Harris. "We will continue to take the steps necessary to protect American consumers and the environment from wasteful and inefficient appliances."

DOE subpoenaed AeroSys's data on the energy use for certain heat pumps and air conditioners last year, before beginning independent testing on seven product models in the fall (6 air conditioner models and one heat pump).

Based on the test data, DOE has determined that the AeroSys heat pump (THHP-24T) and one of the air conditioners (THDC-30T) consume more energy than allowed under federal law. Another air conditioner (THDC-24T) was shown to meet the federal standards.

The non-compliant air conditioner fell below the minimum standard of 10.9 SEER by about eight percent, while the heat pump missed by about four percent. Testing is continuing on four additional air conditioner models (THDC-18R, THDC-18S, THDC-18T and THDC-24S) and will be complete over the next month.

Once testing is complete, DOE will determine the compliance of the remaining four models and take additional actions as appropriate.

A Notice of Noncompliance issued by DOE's Office of the General Counsel to AeroSys requires the manufacturer to respond to DOE within 15 days, detailing the steps they will take to remove the two noncompliant models from commerce in the U.S.

The company is also required to provide written notification to all businesses where the products were distributed, alerting them that the products consume more energy than allowed by law.

If the company fails to respond or effectively explain how these products will be removed from the market, the Department of Energy will seek a judicial order to prevent their sale.

Earlier this month, DOE and the Environmental Protection Agency outlined a series of steps to strengthen the ENERGY STAR program, which the government describes as "helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices."