The best-known aspect of the Energy Star program is the Energy Star label, which is awarded to appliances and other items that are significantly more efficient than average. Energy Star efficiency guidelines vary depending on product category, but in general, Energy Star products use 20%-30% less energy than minimum federal standards.
The Energy Star guidelines were designed both with energy efficiency and performance in mind. While low energy use is one of the most important criteria for selecting Energy Star appliances, product performance, features, warranty, safety, and durability are also taken into account. Price is also a factor: if a product costs significantly more than other products in its category, it will only receive the Energy Star label if the up-front cost will be recovered through savings in operating costs within a reasonable amount of time.
The first Energy Star labels were given to computers and monitors in 1992. Now labels can be found on many other products, including:
» Hot water heaters
» Air conditioners
» Light bulbs (florescent and LED)
Energy Star products can be found wherever appliances and electronics are sold. Look for the blue and white Energy Star label. You can also look for the yellow EnergyGuide label that is affixed to most heating and cooling systems and household appliances. This label is created by the Department of Energy and shows a product’s annual cost of operation compared to similar models. It will often indicate whether a product is Energy Star.
It’s important to note that while an Energy Star label indicates that a heater, air conditioner, or household appliance is more efficient than the minimum guidelines, it does not always mean that you are getting the most energy efficient option on the market. If you are making a major appliance purchase, use the Energy Star label to be sure every model on your “short list” is energy efficient. Then, look carefully at the EnergyGuide label to compare the efficiency of the models you are considering.
The EPA has also extended the Energy Star label to cover new homes and commercial and industrial buildings. To qualify for the Energy Star rating, a new home must use at least 15% less energy than standard homes (built to the 2004 International Residential Code). Energy Star homes usually include insulation, high-performance windows, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, appliances, lighting, and water heaters.
The Energy Star standards and label have been recognized in many other countries, including Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union.