Energy Star Undergoing Changes

It's no secret that many American consumers are struggling to manage their monthly expenses including energy-related bills.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) started to the Energy Star program in 1992 to help consumers manage costs and protect the environment. Energy Star is a labeling program designed to promote products that are energy-efficient.

Energy Star products typically save homeowners about 30% on energy bills without sacrificing any features, comfort or style. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is similar to the savings experienced by households.

To strengthen Energy Star, the DOE and EPA have undertaken an expansion of testing of qualified products.

More than 25% of a typical household's energy-related costs are from appliances. The DOE is testing refrigerators, freezers (stand-alone), dishwashers, washers, water heaters and room air conditioners to ensure they are compliant and that the labels are factual. Both the DOE and the EPA are in the process of creating a testing system for all Energy Star products.

As a result of the changes, all products that seek the Energy Star label must be tested in government-approved labs. Continued compliance will be monitored via a program for ongoing verification.

“As our economy gets back on its feet, Energy Star is an easy way for consumers to save money and help fight climate change.”

Companies with products noncompliant with the energy standards face heavy fines and the revocation of the Energy Star label. Customers must be notified and the non-compliant units must be repaired or replaced. In recent months action has been taken against 35 manufacturers.

The DOE's reporting deadlines for manufacturers to provide documentation regarding the energy used by all their products will be aggressively enforced.

The government's strengthening efforts also apply to shower heads. A company's failure to meet water conservation standards leads to enforcement action by the government.

Windows, skylights and doors must be tested by the independent National Fenestration Rating Council in order to be labeled as Energy Star. The Council is nonprofit.

Accredited third-party laboratory testing is also required for all residential light fixtures, LED or solid state lights and compact fluorescent bulbs.

More than 40,000 products have the Energy Star Label and, thus far, testing has shown the program's compliance rate at about 98%. The EPA’s independent Inspector General conducted a “spot check” of the program in 2009. Fifty-nine percent of the 60 products met or exceeded the Energy Star requirements.

“Energy efficiency is more important than ever to American families,” said Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “As our economy gets back on its feet, Energy Star is an easy way for consumers to save money and help fight climate change.”

Households that used Energy Star products helped avoid greenhouse gas emissions that would be the equivalent to that of 30 million cars in 2009. The nation's utility bills were nearly $17 billion in lower in 2009 due to Energy Star.

To read the requirements of Energy Star products or for more information, visit the Energy Star website.

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