A quick history
Energy Star is a program started in 1992 as a joint venture between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. It is a voluntary program for manufacturers to label their products with an estimated amount of energy the product is going to consume and an approximate cost of the energy to run it.
Energy Star may be considered an independent 3rd party evaluator for appliances. Most consumers are not going to have the wherewithal to do energy consumption tests on prospective models of appliances. As long as the manufacturer has submitted their product for Energy Star testing, the results are available to ALL consumers considering that model of appliance. This enables the consumer to reasonably compare the power consumption of different models.
Energy Star originated in the United States but has since been adopted by many other countries include Canada, Australia, and the European Union, among others.
The stated goals of the Energy Star program are to save consumers money and reduce polluting emissions. In 2010 alone, U.S. consumers save $18 billion in energy costs and kept the equivalent of 33 million cars worth of greenhouses gases out of the atmosphere.
Not just appliances
Energy Star started with just appliances, computers and monitors to be exact. They have continued to add more appliances since then and have even gotten to the point of appling the Energy Star logo to new homes.
A home built to the Energy Star requirements are 15% more efficient than homes build to the 2004 International Residential Code. Along with other energy features, these homes can be up to 30% more efficient than a standard home.
There are even additional options available on mortgages for energy efficient homes. Lenders may be willing to take into consideration the reduced energy costs of an energy efficient home when considering your loan. There may also be better rates available for home improvement loans if the primary purpose of the loan is to improve the energy efficiency of the home, to say nothing of what other rebates may be available.
The Energy Star EnergyGuide
When an appliance has been tested by Energy Star it receives a label called an EnergyGuide. This label will include a description of the production with key features as well as the make, model and size of the product.
The most prominent portion of the EnergyGuide is the Estimated Yearly Operating Cost. This is a scale showing the cost range of similar products and where on that scale the product in question falls. Below that it gives the Estimated Yearly Electricity Use. Obviously if the product is a gas hot water heater it will be gas use, as opposed to electricity. In the fine print on the guide you will fine the assumptions that the estimated is base on, the primary factor being the cost of a unit of energy, be it a Kwh of electricity or a gallon of gas.
It is important to remember that this is an estimate only. Energy cost may be different in your area and your usage of the product may differ from the average. The guide is to provide a convenient way to compare two similar products, not exactly what it's going to cost to run the appliance in your house.
When evaluating an appliance solely on energy consumption you will want the arrow on the scale to be as far to the left as possible. And to have the annual energy use of the product be as low as possible.
Energy Guide Described
Energy Star as a decision aid
As stated previously, one of Energy Star's stated goals is to save consumers money. They also want to reduce greenhouse emissions, but few consumers will be thinking about that while shopping for an appliance.
A possible scenario for purchasing a refrigerator may following these steps:
- Select models in the desired price range
- Select models with the desired features
- Finally buy the most energy efficient model that fits the previous two points based on the Energy Star rating.
Every consumer is different so the importance of these, and other decisions, will vary.