Energy Star…a good starting point, but not the gold standard it once was.


While we’re on the topic of certification and the like, let’s talk about Energy Star.

The Energy Star program is a joint venture of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that was introduced in 1992 with the goal of allowing consumers to easily identify energy-efficient products.

According to a recent Consumer Reports article, close to half of us must know and trust Energy Star because about 44% of Americans have purchased an Energy Star rated appliance.   Other surveys (such as that by CEE) indicate this awareness is even higher.  This is all well and good, but there have been rumblings from consumer advocate groups who complain that Energy Star accreditation has become too easy to attain.  They may have a point.

Like all things, technological advances make household appliances run faster, better and more efficiently.  For example, roughly three quarters of all dishwashers now have the Energy Star accreditation.  This does not mean that three quarters of the dishwashing machines on the market are created equal, but rather that the Energy Star standards no longer provides enough help to allow us to easily choose the most energy efficient models on the market with the Energy Star logo alone.

There are two proposals to rectify this situation: One camp believes in introducing a top tier of ‘Super Star’ ratings that would only be awarded to the top 5% of appliances in any given category.  The other camp believes that tightening Energy Star standards is the best way to go, as it would cause the least confusion to consumers.  Make no mistake–Energy Star is an example of one of the truly successful private-public partnerships.  It’s a great brand that we need to maintain and protect.  With some products, though, it’s time to substantial ratcheting up of the performance standards.

In the mean time consumers are left with a quandary.  You might think that choosing and installing household appliances is as easy as pie, but you would be wrong.  Smart people make mistakes (just read the article by Scott Adams that we’ve been discussing in previous blog entries).  Do it right the first time and get the help you need.  You won’t regret it.  You can do worse than using Energy Star as your default option.  But you can often do quite a bit better.  (And a good contractor such as GreenHomes America can help you sort it out.)



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