Energy Star is efficiency seal of approval


September 27, 2023

Last time, I suggested buying Energy Star electronics to cut your energy bills. What is Energy Star and why is their work relevant?

Energy Star is a voluntary program started by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 to promote energy efficiency and sustainability. Energy Star encourages manufacturers and building designers to submit their products for evaluation and (hopefully) certification that they are more energy efficient than competing products. Energy Star thus makes it easier for energy users to identify, products, buildings and industrial systems that are the most energy efficient.

You’ve probably seen the blue and white Energy Star stickers on electronics and appliances. You may even have seen Energy Star plaques in buildings. Energy Star ratings are available across a wide range of products, including appliances, electronics, lighting, heating and cooling systems, commercial and residential buildings and even industrial facilities.

To earn an Energy Star label, the system, whether it’s a consumer appliance or a building, must meet criteria which are periodically updated by the EPA to reflect technological advancements and evolving energy efficiency standards. Energy Star is a comparative program: It doesn’t certify that something is inherently energy-efficient; it certifies that the thing is more energy efficient than similar things for the year in which it was built.

Energy Star appliances must be at least 10-15% more energy-efficient than similar models. The Energy Star label is only placed on the appliances that will offer the highest energy savings over their lifetimes, based on a comparison between energy consumption of the Energy Star appliances vs. their direct competitors.

For new buildings, an Energy Star plaque reassures tenants that their energy bills will be lower because of good building design. Energy Star ratings thus make spaces more valuable to tenants, so the rating is sought by building owners. Architects, engineers and utility energy conservation rebate programs work together from the earliest stages of design to make sure a given building will get an Energy Star plaque.

By making it obvious that a particular device or rental space is energy-efficient compared to similar options, Energy Star’s ratings make it easier for consumers to comparison shop for energy efficiency. As of 2021, the EPA states that Energy Star, in its 30th year, had helped Americans save over 5.5 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity, equivalent to powering more than 220 million homes for a year.

In other words: By making it easier for energy users to know that they are making energy-efficient buying decisions, Energy Star has reduced average U.S. electric use and electric bills by about 3%, for 30 years.

Since Energy Star updates its standards to keep up with technology, people continue to know they’re still getting the most efficient available products.

The Energy Star label has become a trusted symbol of efficiency in the U.S. The program has proven to be so effective at providing useful information to consumers that Energy Star itself, or local variations, have also been adopted in Canada, Australia, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and other countries.

Energy Star’s efforts go beyond product certification. The program actively engages in public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives to inform consumers and businesses about the benefits of energy efficiency.


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