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Can Energy Star be trusted?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

This comes from the Green Blog at the Boston Globe:


An article in the current issue of Consumer Reports magazine lambasts the federal Energy Star rating system as outdated and so riddled with loopholes that way too many greenhouse gas-guzzling appliances get qualified for the energy efficiency label.

It’s not the first time questions have been raised about the joint program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy meant to help consumers choose appliances that are lighter on power usage and their electric bills. The General Accounting Office last year broached similar concerns. The GAO reported, for instance, that TVs are tested in standby mode because the Energy Star standards are so old they were written for black-and-white sets.

This month’s Consumer Reports article looked at refrigerators, finding they consumed much more electricity than advertised when put through the nonprofit watchdog group’s “comparative energy tests, which are tougher than the Department of Energy's and better resemble how you use a refrigerator.” One model used more than twice the electricity claimed on its Energy Star label.

The controversy is yet another facing environmental certification standards that have proliferated as consumers grow increasingly concerned about global warming. The drive to provide consumers with ways to identify eco-friendly products has largely fallen short, critics say. (Read the rest)


The article in question (the Consumer Reports article that is) is from their October 2008 issue.  It's called "Energy Star has lost some luster."


The EPA of course had to respond...


The Consumer Reports article misses the basic point of the ENERGY STAR program. ENERGY STAR is designed to help consumers find energy-efficient products that will cost-effectively help save them money and help them protect the environment. It has been doing this successfully for more than fifteen years. Last year alone, the program prevented 40 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions while saving Americans more than $16 billion on their utility bills.

To accomplish this, EPA initially seeks to have about 25 percent of available models meet the ENERGY STAR criteria when they are first established for a product category. Increasing the market share of qualifying products from their initial levels is a goal of the program – not a fundamental flaw, as the article suggests.

Further, there are other important considerations in developing these criteria that the Consumer Reports article does not mention. These include that the criteria:

  • allow for a reasonable level of product availability,
  • are set so that consumers will get their money back through lower energy bills fairly quickly if there is a price premium for the products, and
  • can be met without sacrifice in product performance.


Later in the EPA response, it says "The EPA stands by the integrity of the Energy Star program." 


I'm of the opinion that most certification systems aren't perfect.  And they certainly can all stand to be reevaluated every now and again.  But...they give us a starting point. 


What do you all think?

post #2 of 9

Wow, yet another criticism of the EPA.


Sounds to me like while EnergyStar is still a valuable ratings system, the EPA needs to do a better job keeping it up to date and making their tests accurate.  Certainly it's better than nothing, but they should make their tests as close to real-world use as possible.  Sounds like they're not doing a good job of that.

post #3 of 9
The Energy Star program provides listings of qualifying items along with information concerning specific consumption or water power or whatever.

The consumer needs to look at the list and pick the best model that they can afford - not just the lowest priced model with the Energy Star rating.

For example considering standard sized Energy Star compliant dishwashers - between various models - same amount of washes per year for each:

a) water consumption varies between 329 and 1247 gallons per year
b) power consumption varies between 157 kWh 324 kWh per year

More than likely the lower water and power consumption models are the more expensive. İn the event the list were too restrictive companies would be up in arms claiming the government was picking winners or being unfair.

The point is that the Energy Star rating is a starting point - not the end.
post #4 of 9
Russ said it best, it is a starting point. Use it to eliminate the ones that aren't ES rated, then compare from there.
post #5 of 9
From Alison Pruitt and the energyboom - 

Even with a product in clear violation of Energy Star requirements it seems LG couldn't see why they had to remove the classification from a couple of their fridge models so the DOE took them to court.

As part of its expanded energy efficient enforcement efforts, DOE had taken steps over the past few months to remove the label from these products, which independent testing had shown were consuming significantly more energy than allowed by the Energy Star program.

For the whole story’s-action-against-lg-enforce-energy-star-requirements?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+energyboom+(EnergyBoom)
post #6 of 9

Energy Star is a good starting point HOWEVER as technology advances at accelerated rates, Energy Star has not kept up with the game. This is most evident at it relates to LED Lighting. The criteria for LED Lighting products to achieve Energy Star ratings have been like a moving target in the past couple of years. The expense to submit products for review and rating along with the time to get products tested by Energy Star has been the demise of some very good products. Talk among the LED Lighting world is that Energy Star is protecting some of the larger lighting manufacturers by dragging their heels and changing the rules. At the same time Power Companies seem to be protecting their businesses rather than stepping up to the plate and promoting quality LED Lighting Options versus inferior options or brands. Just review the types of rebates being given to fluorescent and compact fluorescent lighting versus LED options, many of which are clearly 50% more energy efficient and do not contain harmful products such as Mercury. LED LIGHTING IS AN INVESTMENT, do your homework and MAKE A WISE INVESTMENT!

post #7 of 9

Most if not federal agencies need to be dragged (probably kicking and screaming) into the 21st century.

e-protection-a? Please.

Refrigerators can be pricey for many; it's not like buying a $30 item. Do the research, get the data

and then spend the money. The net's information is there to use; at least for now (net neutrality) but that's

another topic.

post #8 of 9

Amazingly, people in most of the countries use EPA ratings to make a choice while buying electrical appliances. Bearing the EPA flaws in mind, I can just say that international organization and respective governments are only doing a lip service by promoting the Green bandwagon.




post #9 of 9

This is an interesting thread... One reason I think the EPA comes under such scrutiny is because the mechanisms in place on top of it. By that, I mean organizations like the Office of Management and Budget. The EPA no longer has the unilateral power to develop really energy efficient products, or place standards and rules in place that would require it. Considering the fact that there is centralized oversight on agencies like the EPA, how can we expect any less... If the president, or his peons, dislike a policy or "draft rules" by the EPA, they thrash it. I recently heard the EPA is sending a new proposal to the OMB about carbon emissions, so we'll see how the Obama administration handles that...


On a lighter note, there are lots of energy star products that do indeed helps conserve energy. There's an article from a natural and holistic living blog,, that details some. If you're interested, check it article "Green Living: The Top 5 Replacements for Your Home". The blog pulls together info from Energy Star and other resources, but has some stuff about water too.


Until the EPA gets a little more power, I would argue it is more justified to point the finger at the OMB and even the president. The EPA can produce whatever rules and regulations they want, but unless the president says it's okay, it's going no where.

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