100 Day Challenge #82: Look for the Energy Star label (not just on appliances)
The ENERGY STAR program has been in the U.S. for over 25 years now, and we're confident you've seen their label especially when buying appliances or electronics. Most people think of washing machines, refrigerators, and dishwashers when they hear about this program and above all, they associate this label with energy efficient appliances. However, did you know that the ENERGY STAR program encompasses so much more than that? And what does that blue star label even mean?
A little ENERGY STAR background and history
ENERGY STAR is most importantly an independently administered certification program that creates a national platform that every consumer, utility, and business owner can use and trust to make informed decisions around energy efficiency. This program was established by the EPA in 1992 under the authority of the Clean Air Act, and it began as a label only for office products. As the years went on, ENERGY STAR continued to add product categories and programs under its purview until it grew to the hugely encompassing, energy efficiency guideline that it is today.
Since ENERGY STAR's inception:
Americans have purchased over 6 billion ENERGY STAR products
More than 270,000 commercial properties (amounting to over 26 billion square feet of floor space) have voluntarily participated in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® program
2 million single family homes have been ENERGY STAR certified
Over 700 utility, state and local governments, and nonprofits have leveraged the certification for their own efficiency programs, reaching roughly 95% of households in all 50 states.
The ENERGY STAR certification has clearly expanded far past office supplies in the last 27 years! So, exactly what is encompassed under this iconic energy efficiency label?
Energy Star Products
This is probably the branch of the ENERGY STAR program that we're all most familiar with, and with good reason; since 2006, the label has saved homeowners over 14 billion dollars in energy related to appliance use. In short, all the hype around the certification is justified!
There are so many products that fall under the ENERGY STAR program that go way beyond your main households appliances. Essentially, think of anything that uses electricity and chances are, you can find an ENERGY STAR option for it. Here's a list of the highlights so you can see just how wide the scope is: air purifiers, ceiling fans, light bulbs, televisions, computer monitors, pool pumps, commercial food service equipment, solar water heaters, ventilation fans, furnaces, electric vehicle equipment... y'all get the picture. Even building supplies that have an energy saving component such as windows, doors, and skylights fall under the ENERGY STAR program!
In order for a product to qualify for the certification, it must consume between 10% to 50% less energy than a non-labeled model. Appliances also come with a yellow Energy Guide label, that helps you understand the annual energy usage and operating cost of your product and how it compares to other standard models. Even though ENERGY STAR models may cost a little more to purchase upfront, the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that these energy efficient products have already saved American homeowners in the neighborhood of $200 billion to date, or about $2,000 per household.
Most importantly, as technology evolves and standard efficiency devices and appliances improve, ENERGY STAR benchmarks change as well. For example, in 2018, the EPA updated the ENERGY STAR performance requirements for five categories including computers, televisions, pool pumps, servers and imaging equipment. We think this is one of the most important aspects of the program. It's great to know that their requirements are always changing to keep up with the fast-paced technology industry. This ensures that we, as consumers, know that we're purchasing models that are more efficient than the status quo regardless of when that purchase took place.
Energy Star Homes
In order for a home to receive the ENERGY STAR certification, it must be at least 10% more energy efficient than other homes that are built just to code. This goes for new home construction, apartment buildings and retrofitted existing homes. These homes need to provide the homeowners with more comfort and better quality and performance. Due to the increase in demand for these types of homes, 90% of the largest home builders in the nation are now building ENERGY STAR homes.
ENERGY STAR for buildings and plants
ENERGY STAR For Guidance on Strategic Energy Management was developed to help businesses choose energy saving practices for their buildings. This program helps hospitals, schools, offices and industrial plants track and measure their energy and water use and has "become the industry standard for rating a facility's energy performance." This tool can help businesses remain competitive while saving valuable resources.