If you have ever bought one appliance before – actually even just a light bulb -, chances are good that you’ve seen or heard of ENERGY STAR®. In fact, based on the latest research made by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about ENERGY STAR® Awareness, 91% of households recognize the ENERGY STAR® label when shown and 83% reported they have seen or heard about it before being shown the label.

But, how much do you really know about it? Energy efficiency ratings are there to help us make better choices when it comes to purchasing appliances and doing the same with less energy. In this article, we will guide you through what it is, its main benefits, and a little background information.

1. What is ENERGY STAR®?

To put it briefly, ENERGY STAR® is a label for energy efficiency. So far is the only government-backed standard and implies that the product meets federal performance needs in terms of minimum energy consumption. At its core, its administrated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On this short video made by the program you’ll understand how it works and what it means.

2. What’s the history behind it?

ENERGY STAR® was introduced in 1992 as a joint program of the EPA and the US Department of Energy. It appeared as a voluntary program in which energy-efficient products were being labeled. The main purpose behind it was to “deliver cost-saving energy efficiency solutions that protect the climate while improving air quality and protecting public health” according to information presented by the program.

In 1991, EPA introduced the Green Lights program, a program that promoted efficiency in lighting systems. This one was later introduced on the ENERGY STAR® program. In the early stages, the label was only used in computers, and computer products to show they consumed less power than regular products. Later in 1995, this label was overlapped with other appliances & major home systems.

3. ENERGY STAR® Products

Up to today, more than 65 product categories have an ENERGY STAR® label. In general, products that have the label, are meant to save you money while helping reduce the carbon footprint. All of this because, to be awarded the tag, they need to use less energy to perform efficiently.

When purchasing an appliance, electronic or even just a lightbulb, you need to realize that there would always be two costs. On one hand, the product cost and on the other one, the energy/water costs to operate it.  By combining advanced technology and high-quality features, ENERGY STAR-compliant equipment can help offset upfront costs through energy savings during the equipment life cycle.​​​

ENERGY STAR has a full site of its website dedicated to products, in it, you will find the products that meet the required criteria. To state some examples:

- Refrigerators & freezers:

Fridges & freezers that meet the requirements to have the label have improvements in insulation and compressors. A typical certified fridge can be about 15% more efficient than regular ones.

- Air cleaners & purifiers:

These products help remove fine particles like dust & pollen. If it is certified, they can achieve a 40% savings compared to regular ones. That’s around $25 over one year.

- Lightbulbs:

They use up to 90% less energy and last around 15x longer than regular ones. Certified lightbulbs produce also from 70% to 90% less heat, making them safer to operate.

4. Homes, apartments, buildings & condos

The certificate states that the home, apartment, or building complies with strict energy-efficient requirements and standards set by the EPA. It entails details such as heating and cooling, thermal enclosure, insulation, and even how efficient the windows are. Small improvements can add to huge savings in the short term so it’s important to check everything in detail.

To be awarded the label, the builder has to meet strict EPA requirements, for instance, they need to become a partner of the program and work with an energy rating company to get certified. The blue label makes it easy for buyers and tenants to choose new homes and apartments that are truly comfortable and energy-efficient.

Check out how these work in this brief video by ENERGY STAR program.

5. How does the label work?

The EPA guarantees that any product that receives the label has been independently certified to achieve the efficiency and savings that customers have come to expect. On average, appliances with the ENERGY STAR® label tend to be 10% to 20% more energy-efficient than non-rated ones. This implies that if you buy an appliance with the lowest Energy Guide rating, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll also save energy if it’s also ES-approved. This is an excellent method to boost your energy savings while simultaneously benefiting the environment.

6. Major milestones & key facts

Based on the information released by the ENERGY STAR website, these are some of the major results and milestones achieved by the program:

  • Since 1992, ENERGY STAR® has helped homes and businesses save over 5 trillion kWh of electricity & achieve a reduction of 4 billion metric tons of greenhouse emissions.
  • Over 90% of American Households recognize the logo, this is comparable to the brand awareness of Pepsi & Coca-Cola.
  • ENERGY STAR® is backed up by more than 840 utilities nationwide.
  • Over the years, each & every USD spent by EPA in the program has resulted in $350 energy cost savings.
  • By 2020, about 75.000 products of different categories had earned the label.
  • The milestone of 2M houses & apartments built was reached in 2019
  • Americans have purchased over 7 million ENERGY STAR® labeled products, and the number keeps growing.
  • Although the program began in the US, the program has also been implemented by Canada, the EU, Japan, Australia & New Zealand.

7. Benefits

There are many benefits of purchasing one certified product or of living in an accredited home or building. Among the most important:

  • They’re more efficient: Reduce the amount of energy they use, meaning savings on your monthly bill.
  • There are more than 65 product categories that are currently labeled.
  • Most of the appliances have “Smart” features that help them reduce electricity and water costs. These features improve overall quality and performance.
  • Buildings that have the certificate have additional benefits such as:
    • Can rent to federal tenants
    • Lower utility bills
    • Better performance and they’re more appealing
    • Higher occupancy rates & rents
    • Better financing terms

Purchasing ENERGY STAR products is a great way to save money & also to help the environment. If you want to lower your monthly bills or switch energy suppliers, we have tips on how to reduce our bills in summer and how to switch to get a better tariff. If you have one certified product, let us know your opinions on it in the comment section below.

Remember, energy deregulation gives you the power to choose your energy supplier and do an energy switch. Go On, Be Powerful with Power Choice Now.