With rising cost of energy and its increasing demand, along with associated environmental impact, consumers and businesses are looking for ways and means to reduce their energy bills and their negative impact on the world. Manufacturers of products are finding new and innovative ways of making their products more energy efficient in order to make their products more competitive and environment friendly. Technology also, has played a part- for example; more and more products come with a ‘stand-by’ mode to save energy. As research and development continues, products with newer and more energy efficient features continue to emerge.
All about Energy Star
Products that are energy efficient to reduce green house gas emissions are identified and promoted through a voluntary labelling initiative called the Energy Star Program. This program was started in 1992 in the United States by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE).
In its early days, the Energy Star label was applied only to computers and monitors. In 1995, the Energy Star labelling initiative was expanded to include office equipment and residential heating and cooling. Today, the Energy Star label appears of a variety of products in over 50 product categories. Through agreements with various international governments, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have also adopted the Energy Star.
What does it mean when the product carries the Energy Star label? Products that carry the Energy Star label are more energy efficient than standard products in the same category, while offering the same or better standards of performance.
The Energy Star label is awarded to products that can show that they meet the criteria set by the EPA and DOE for the particular product category. For the development of new criteria (or for the revision of existing criteria), the Energy Star initiative relies on a systematic process that includes the expertise of manufacturers, environmental groups and government agencies.
Did You Know?
- The United Stated used nearly a million dollars worth of energy each minute!
- Energy efficiency is defined as the practice of using less energy to do something as good as before or better
- With the help of Energy Star, Americans saved enough energy in 2007 to avoid green house gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million cars!
- A home can cause twice the green house gas emissions of a car! This is why Energy Star is analysing homes for their energy efficieny
How are the Energy Star criteria set?
The Energy Star Product Development teams at the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy are responsible for the evaluation process undertaken before criteria are set or revised. This evaluation process ensures that all decisions are taken in an informed manner and that Energy Star’s actions are well communicated to stakeholders. The Energy Star Product Development Teams consider the development/revision of criteria based on:
- whether ‘significant energy savings will be realised on a national basis’
- whether ‘product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing’
- ‘product performance will be maintained or enhanced’
- whether ‘purchasers of the product will recover any cost difference within a reasonable time period’
- ‘specifications do not unjustly favour any one technology’
- whether ‘labelling will effectively differentiate products to purchasers’
Essentially, Energy Star aims to identify products where gains in energy efficiency and pollution reduction can be realised in a cost efficient manner and where Energy Star can play a role to expand the market for these products.
The Specification Development Cycle
The Energy Star Program has identified a Specification Development Cycle for the adoption of criteria consisting of 15 steps which is undertaken with the help if international coordination. These steps consist of:
- Stakeholder notification
- Energy and Environmental analysis
- Market, Industry and Design research
- Test methodology development (as necessary)
- Release draft specification
- Stakeholder meetings
- Release subsequent drafts with interim decision memos
- Post draft and stakeholder comments to website
- Finalise specification
- Final decision memorandum
- Specification takes effect
- Manufacturers join program and begin labelling products
- Officially launch specification with industry and stakeholders
- Monitor market penetration
- Open specifications for revisions (as necessary)
What are the product categories that the Energy Star covers?
In the category of office equipment, Energy Star labels computers, copiers, fax machines, printers and scanners.
In the category of lighting equipment, Energy Star labels exist for compact florescent light bulbs (CFL’s), residential light fixtures, and decorative light strings.
The Energy Star has also developed criteria in the category of commercial food service for products such as commercial dishwashers and fryers, commercial ice machines and hot food holding cabinets, commercial solid door refrigerators and freezers.
The Energy Star also covers other commercial products such as vending machines, exit signs, water coolers and battery charging systems.
How energy efficient are products that carry the Energy Star?
For each product category, consumers are provided information about the energy efficiency and/or savings associated with Energy Star labelled products. For example, Energy Star qualified room air conditioners use at least 10% less energy than conventional models. Energy Star qualified roofs reflect more of the sun’s rays decreasing the amount of heat transferred into the building. This in turn reducing the amount of air conditioning needed and can reduce peak cooling demand by 10-15%. Cordless phones, answering machines and combination units that have earned the Energy Star use about one third less energy than conventional products. For more information on the savings provided by Energy Star qualified products, please visit The Energy Star website
Energy Star Homes
Energy Star has expanded its ideology of energy efficiency to homes. Single family, attached, low-rise multifamily homes, log homes, concrete homes and even retrofitted homes can earn the Energy Star provided they meet the guidelines for energy efficiency set by the Environmental Protection Agency. An Energy Star rated home would have effective insulation, high performance windows, tight construction and ducts, efficient heating and cooling equipment and efficient products. Third-party verification is required before a home is granted the Energy Star.
Energy Star also provides guidance on how to make existing homes more energy efficient through home improvements. It helps home owners on auditing their energy use and gives customised recommendations on how the energy efficiency of the home can be improved.
Buildings and Plants
The Energy Star initiative also provides guidance, tools and resources to help build more energy efficient buildings and plants. These include a wide spectrum of construction including commercial and corporate real estate, retail spaces, and health care facilities, industrial facilities, hospitality and school buildings among others.
Who are the members of Energy Star?
Since Energy Star is collaboration between government and industry, it has thousands of members that span:
- Manufacturers or private labels products that meet Energy Star qualification criteria
- Companies that promote Energy Star qualified products such as retailers (both independent and national chains), online merchants or buying groups.
- Those that label and promote Energy Star Qualified Homes including builders, raters, sponsors and lenders of new homes
- Commercial and industrial service providers that help their clients improve their energy efficiency (e.g. architects, contractors, energy managements service companies and consultants, equipment manufacturers etc)
- Publicly owned utilities, government entities, energy delivery companies, organisations that coordinate/administer energy efficiency or environmental education programs that promote Energy Star – these are known as Energy Efficiency program sponsors.
- Lenders that offer special financing for Energy Star qualified new homes or those interested in providing energy efficient financing to their customers
- Small, commercial and industrial businesses that are committed to improving their energy efficiency