09/04/13

Energy Star: The Basics

What is ENERGY STAR?

ENERGY STAR is a voluntary partnership program between government and industry that identifies and labels energy efficient products, buildings, plants, and homes, helping businesses, consumers, and the government save money and protect the environment.

By providing clear information on the benefits of certain products and practices, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-run program builds awareness about the advantages of energy efficiency, boosts market penetration of energy efficient products, and provides recognition and support for households, companies, and organizations that are committed to saving energy.

What products can earn the ENERGY STAR label?

A number of products—as well as homes, industrial plants, and buildings—are eligible for the ENERGY STAR qualification, including:

  • Clothes washers;
  • Refrigerators and freezers;
  • Air conditioning systems;
  • Windows, doors, and skylights;
  • Several types of commercial food service equipment;
  • Light bulbs;
  • Vending machines;
  • And many more.

How does EPA decide on the criteria for each ENERGY STAR label?

EPA establishes energy efficiency requirements and specifications for each product according to a set of overarching guiding principles. Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by customers, and if they cost more than their conventional counterparts, consumers must be able to recover their investments through utility bill savings within a reasonable amount of time. The products must also employ energy efficiency technologies that are broadly available and offered by more than one manufacturer, among other requirements.

The specifications are revised periodically, and will generally be updated when the market share of ENERGY STAR products in a particular category exceeds fifty percent. As a result, both ENERGY STAR qualifications and levels of energy efficiency have improved over the years. For example, an ENERGY STAR clothes washer manufactured presently consumes roughly 70 percent less energy and 75 percent less water than a standard washer made twenty years ago.

Are there different levels of ENERGY STAR qualifications?

EPA recently developed an ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, which recognizes a superlative level of efficiency among products that qualify for the label. These products represent the cutting edge in energy efficiency technologies in a variety of categories.

Who has adopted ENERGY STAR products and buildings, or formed partnerships with the program?

  • Millions of households and businesses have purchased ENERGY STAR qualified products and homes to save energy and money.
  • Many utilities across the country partner with and rely upon ENERGY STAR ratings for homes, buildings, and appliances.
  • Federal agencies are required to buy only ENERGY STAR labeled products in certain categories, per the mandate directed by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
  • Several cities and states use the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager system as the basis for the required rating and benchmarking of the energy performance of commercial and multifamily buildings.
  • ENERGY STAR has numerous partnerships with major corporations that act as both suppliers and customers of qualified products.

What has been the effect of ENERGY STAR?

High electricity and natural gas demand have driven up energy prices, contributed to climate change, and increased foreign energy imports. Since its creation more than twenty years ago, ENERGY STAR has helped address these externalities by affording Americans additional opportunities to save money on energy expenses, while improving our economy, environment, and national security. 

In 2012, consumers and businesses purchased about 300 million ENERGY STAR labeled products, helping them to reduce their utility bills by $24 billion. The use of ENERGY STAR products also lowered greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 242 million metric tons in 2012 alone. 

What’s next for ENERGY STAR?

The ENERGY STAR program requires adequate funding in order to continue to help American consumers and businesses save even more energy and money.

The Alliance is working to urge Congress to exceed the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2014 in order to maintain the national profile and value of the ENERGY STAR program.

(chart only includes program highlights)
ProgramFY12
Enacted
FY13
Request
FY13FY14
Request
FY14
Senate
E&W
FY14
House
Change
from FY14
Request
Change
from FY13
Environmental Protection Agency (Interior Appropriations)
Energy Star (EPA)49.66853.87250.24952.915