Green Building Community
Energy Star: A Leading Label in Voluntary Energy Conservation
Posted by: EmmamHowe // Marketing/Green Policy Development
Although long popular, Energy Star has recently become a top symbol for energy conservation and going green, helping save families and businesses $300 billion on utility bills while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions by two billion metric tons! Energy Star not only promotes energy efficient household appliances like light bulbs, ovens, and refrigerators, but the labeling program also focuses on helping residents and businesses “go green.” Did you know that Energy Star addresses electronic devices such as laptops, and even entire houses? The label has been helping to identify top performing, cost-effective products, homes, and buildings across the US ever since 1992.
The Energy Star program was initially enacted as a part of the U.S. strategy to address global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was first cited in President George H. W. Bush’s 1992 Climate Action Plan, and thereafter in the Clinton Administration’s 1994 and 1997 Climate Action Plans. Both administrations advocated the Energy Star program to create incentives for the private industry, nudging them to voluntarily undertake emission reduction initiatives. These incentives have been used to foster market choices in order to increase the US’s overall energy efficiency. Energy Star has has helped create a greener public-private partnership, and since it’s a voluntary program, American businesses and consumers are the ones driving its success. Energy Star will go down in history as being one of the the most successful voluntary energy conservation movements ever established.
How does Energy Star Work?
Specific Energy Star product categories include:
- Appliances: clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and room air conditioners
- Heating and cooling: central air conditioners, furnaces and programmable thermostats
- Home envelope: windows, roofing materials and insulation
- Home electronics: televisions, VCRs, DVD players and home audio systems
- Office equipment: computers, monitors, photocopiers, notebook computers and printers
- Lighting: fixtures and bulbs
- Commercial products: exit signs, vending machines and water coolers (see sidebar)
Home Performance with Energy Star:
- The Home Performance with Energy Star program combines the residential energy use research of the Department of Energy with Energy Star’s outreach capabilities to promote energy-efficient home retrofits
Energy Star certified new homes are designed to deliver energy efficiency savings of up to 30% compared with that of typical new homes
- A new home that has earned the Energy Star label has undergone a process of inspections, testing, and verification to meet strict requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Included in the home inspection/analysis:
- Effective insulation
- High-performance windows
- Tight construction and ducts
- Efficient heating and cooling equipment
- Lighting and appliances
Energy Star’s Commercial Building Score:
- The goal of Energy Star’s Commercial Building Energy Asset Score is to develop a commercial building energy asset rating program, allowing building owners, managers, and operators to more accurately assess building energy performance
- To be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification, a building must earn an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher, indicating that it performs better than at least 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide
- Through Portfolio Manager, EPA delivers 1 – 100 Energy Star scores for many types of buildings
- The Energy Star score accounts for differences in operating conditions, regional weather data, and other important considerations
The Energy Star program functions for many segments by lowering the cost of production for energy-efficient goods to make them more affordable and cost-effective. The Energy Star label makes a product more attractive to consumers, serving as an incentive for manufacturers to become more energy-efficient. Thus, “Energy Star is basically an economics lesson for environmentalists.” Energy Star also helps everyone who buys a more efficient appliance save money through lower energy consumption. So there is a savings and environmental contribution even if someone is not particularly eager to go green. In this sense, the program creates a win-win situation, serving as a great example of how going green and saving money really can go hand in hand.
Does the Energy Star label vary from state to state? Energy Star standards are set by the federal government, although they can be modified by state regulations depending on the state’s green initiatives/policies.
What does a product need to do to earn the Energy Star label? The process begins with the Department of Energy "Energy Guide" label, which is the familiar yellow tag that stores require on all major home appliances. This label indicates that a given product satisfies the Department of Energy's standard procedures. The label lists how much energy the appliance uses compared with similar products and the approximate annual operating costs. If the product has already met the specific criteria for its particular category, then the yellow tag will have the familiar blue Energy Star label.
A home needs to be independently verified by a state official or Energy Star representative in order to receive the Energy Star label, and it also needs to be at least 15% more efficient than the standard energy regulations in that state. For example, in Massachusetts, it would be more difficult to obtain this label due to the state’s high green energy standards. However, Energy Star requirements do change from year to year as new technology is created, which helps drive down the costs of energy-efficient products. Thus, by choosing Energy Star compliant appliances and building techniques, consumers are not only able to cut back their energy consumption, but they can also cut back their utility bills.
Energy Star is one of the most highly regarded credible labeling programs in the world. The rating system is used by both consumers and producers when making decisions to buy or make certain products. Though the price of converting to Energy Star products can be high at the outset, Energy Star is constantly encouraging manufacturers to find cheaper ways to produce these products; therefore, consumers can recover the cost over time with lower utility bills, as well as rebates and tax breaks from the federal and state governments.
According to the latest annual household survey conducted by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) in 2015, 89% of consumers recognize the blue Energy Star label and 75% of those who purchased a product or home that had earned the label said they would recommend Energy Star to a friend. Research also shows that if every business, institution, and home in America were to replace old, less efficient products, like computers, with new Energy Star-qualified ones, more than 1.8 billion dollars in energy costs would be saved within the next five years.This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 2.7 million cars! Energy Star even offers a “PLEDGE TO SAVE ENERGY” on their website. You can get involved with Energy Star today by taking the pledge today and doing your part to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help protect the climate for years to come.
Check out the links below to join the Pledge as well as find out more information about Energy Star:
ENERGY STAR® 101: The Basics of Residential Programs | Green REsource Council
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