Federal Government Takes Steps to Strengthen Energy Star Program
Standards are Getting Tougher for Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling Systems and Other Appliances
According to a March 2010 press release, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have been implementing stricter policies to improve the federal Energy Star program and to increase consumer confidence in the label. The action comes at a crucial time, when more American consumers are both struggling financially and turning to home heating and cooling equipment and home appliances that will save energy and reduce utility bills.
Strengthening Testing and Enforcement
The EPA and DOE have begun a two-part process to expand Energy Star testing:
- The DOE recently started testing on six of the most common Energy Star product types: freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, refrigerator-freezers, and room air conditioners. The DOE will conduct testing on more than 200 models at independent laboratories over the next several months.
- The EPA and DOE are currently working on a system that will make the Energy Starqualification process more rigorous. Changes include testing by approved third-party labs, ongoing verification testing, and new manufacturer compliance cooperation procedures.
On the enforcement front, the EPA and DOE have been working to identify and resolve issues with manufacturers who fail to meet Energy Star standards. This includes actions taken against nearly three dozen manufacturers since January 2010:
- January 7, 2010: The DOE announced that freezer manufacturer Haier had signed a consent decree on four of its models that were found to consume more energy than the company reported. As part of their agreement, Haier was ordered to notify all impacted consumers, repair defective units at no cost, and pay a fine of $150,000 to the US Treasury.
- January 25, 2010: The DOE disqualified 34 compact fluorescent lightbulb models from more than two dozen manufacturers. These bulbs did not meet all Energy Starcriteria for CFL.
- January 28, 2010: The DOE took action against four companies that manufacture showerheads because the products were not certified to meet federal water conservation standards.
- February 4, 2010: The DOE initiated a civil penalty against an air conditioner and heat pump manufacturer because some of its products were not certified, while other products were certified without the proper testing.
- March 7, 2010: The DOE commenced enforcement actions against two more showerhead manufacturers suspected of marketing products that did not meet federal water conservation standards.
- March 11, 2010: The EPA terminated their partnership with US Inc./US Refrigeration based on the company’s history of Energy Star logo misuse, unresponsiveness to EPA communications, and a habitual failure to comply with Energy Star guidelines.
Energy Star Brand Aims to Bolster Consumer Trust
The Energy Star program already has several systems in place to ensure consumer confidence in products that carry the Energy Star label. The requirements for certification are as follows:
- To receive the Energy Star label, companies must submit to the federal government data that shows their product(s) meets clear and quantifiable energy efficiency standards.
- The DOE and EPA conduct regular third-party laboratory and “off the shelf” testing of a range of Energy Star products to ensure continued compliance.
- Because the Energy Star label is so attractive to buyers, market competition drives compliance from manufacturers. Manufacturers frequently test competitors’ products to ensure compliance and can report violations to the EPA or DOE.
- When a manufacturer is found to be in violation of Energy Star policies, the label is removed from the affected product, corrective measures are outlined, and if changes are not made the Energy Star partnership may be terminated.