What is ENERGY STAR anyway?

What the heck is ENERGY STAR anyway?

You know you are supposed to buy ENERGY STAR appliances, and somehow they are supposed to help cut your electric bill, right? But, why and how? Why does it really matter if you buy ENERGY STAR products?

I admit it, I’ve wondered about all of these questions, but no more!

What is ENERGY STAR?

The ENERGY STAR program was developed by the US government (and the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA) in 1992 as a voluntary measure to allow businesses and industries to find ways to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency without the government stepping in and creating laws requiring it.

This has resulted in appliance companies, car companies, home builders, and more stepping in to create and promote more energy efficient products. This has not only improved energy efficiency but has saved consumers an estimated $295+ billion on their utility bills.

Additionally, many ENERGY STAR improvements come with a tax credit of up to 30% of the purchase price (as of 2015).

But, what does it mean to be ENERGY STAR rated?

Both products and buildings can be ENERGY STAR rated but the overall idea is the same. To be ENERGY STAR rated, a product or a building must have energy performance among the top 25% of all products or buildings of its type.

  • For products to be ENERGY STAR they must be certified by an independent third-party to provide increased energy efficiency. If the product costs more than a similar non-ENERGY STAR product the purchase must be able to recoup their investment through utility savings.
  • For new homes to be given the ENERGY STAR rating they must go through a similar third-party verification process. Homes can be given the ENERGY STAR rating based on a set list of improvements, or through custom improvements and must meet the requirements of four checklists. These checklists seek to make sure that the building practices and improvements used promote improved comfort, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and durability of the home.
  • Commercial buildings must receive a score of 75 or higher on the Portfolio Manager and be verified by a licensed professional before applying for ENERGY STAR approval. The Portfolio Manager is an energy-tracking tool that can be used to measure the energy and water use of any building. Industrial plants must meet the same requirements, but then must be certified by a professional engineer.

So now you know. They can’t just say they are ENERGY STAR and throw a label on the appliance or building, they have to prove it and be certified by a third party. Now that you know what ENERGY STAR is and how the rating is achieved you can feel more confident that your purchase is actually providing an advantage that is more than just a tax credit.

ENERGY STAR requirements change from year to year as new technology is created. They are continuing to improve, so much so that ENERGY STAR homes built in 2012 were 15% more energy efficient than ENERGY STAR homes built in 2009. If we can keep this trend up in Alabama we’ll hit Net Zero Energy in Huntsville by 2025 for sure!

By choosing ENERGY STAR compliant appliances and building techniques you can cut your energy consumption, and create a more energy-efficient environment while cutting your utility bills. That sounds good to me!

You can learn more about the ENERGY STAR Program at EnergyStar.gov

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