Energy Star: What is it and who decides?

June 16, 2012 

When shopping for appliances and electronics, you've no doubt seen the "Energy Star" label. But just what an Energy Star product and how does it earn the Energy Star label?

Energy Star is an Environmental Protection Agency-backed symbol for energy efficiency, helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.

The label was established to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy.

  • Make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.

    How does EPA choose which products earn the label?

    Products can earn the Energy Star label by meeting the energy efficiency requirements set forth in Energy Star product specifications. The EPA establishes the specifications based on the following set of key guiding principles:

  • Product categories must contribute significant energy savings nationwide.

  • Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.

  • If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings within a reasonable period of time.

  • Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.

  • Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.

  • Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.

    How does EPA decide when to revise its specifications?

    Generally, a market share of Energy Star-qualified products in a particular category of 50 percent or higher will prompt consideration for a specification revision. However, there are other factors that weigh into the decision, such as:

  • A change in the federal minimum efficiency standards.

  • Technological changes with advances in energy efficiency that allow a revised Energy Star specification to capture additional savings.

  • Product availability.

  • Significant issues with consumers realizing expected energy savings.

  • Performance or quality issues.

  • Issues with test procedures.

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