Using EnergyStar to Save Money? Buyer Beware.

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With summer heat inspiring thousands to shop for air conditioners, the search is on for a consumer brand that combines low prices and efficient energy consumption. For many purchasers, that quest points to Energy Star, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) appliance-rating program, which represents a gold standard for energy-efficient value. Created in 1992, the distinctive blue stickers indicate that a device uses 20%-30% less electricity than mandated by federal standards. Within the last two years, however, the program has come under attack for making dubious claims, mislabeling its products, or insufficiently verifying manufacturers' claims.

The first chink in the Energy Star brand came late in 2008, when the EPA's Inspector General found that the many of the program's alleged benefits could not be demonstrated. In 2006, for example, Energy Star claimed to have reduced carbon waste by 37 million metric tons and saved consumers $14 billion in electric costs. The Inspector General's office found that these claims were unproven, and that the EPA had relied upon "unverified third-party reporting." This latter finding was to prove particularly damaging: ApplianceAdvisor noted that (among other problems) much of the Energy Star testing was conducted by appliance manufacturers who had a vested interest in getting the program's coveted blue label -- and charging customers extra money for it.

Earlier this year, Congressional auditors submitted twenty fictitious appliances for Energy Star certification. The whimsical products -- including a gasoline-powered alarm clock, an air filter with attached feather duster, and a metal roof panel -- were submitted with insufficient documentation and no third-party verification of their energy consumption claims. Yet fifteen were granted Energy Star verification, often within days of the request. Of the five that didn't get the certification, only two were rejected by the program. The other three were voluntarily withdrawn.

There are other ratings systems for appliances: the California Energy Commission has a useful website, and Consumer Reports covers energy usage in many of its reviews. Unfortunately, both alternatives have shortcomings: the CEC's listings can be confusing, and Consumer Reports charges for access. Moreover, neither has the potential reach of the EPA. Perhaps most importantly, it's worth asking if something as important as energy efficiency should be subcontracted to a state agency, a consumer advocate magazine or -- worst of all -- an appliance manufacturer that can charge more for products that carry a blue sticker.

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criterion29

yeah always cook the books first ...........why tey sould be better than our goverment ?

August 18 2010 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve

As usual,the consumer is forced to make purchasing decisions based on inadequate(if not erroneous)information.If the government creates agencies to protect us,aren't they obligated to make sure their seal of approval is worth the paper it's written on?

August 18 2010 at 11:51 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steve's comment
hrlybill

I agree with your statement steve. I don't trust anything the government says. It's so corrupt and messed up, they tell you what you want to hear or what they think makes us happy. This is a pipe dream but.....can you imagine what an awesome country we would be if things were actually run correctly and honestly??? I know, I know...but one can dream.

August 18 2010 at 1:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
blnllwhite

We bought a new Kenmore energy star side by side fridg. Within 30 days the freezer thawed and the fridg froze. The repairman came thawed it out and INSTALLED A HEATER IN THE WALL BETWEEN THE FREEZER AND FRIDG. THE PLUG FOR THE DEVICE WAS ALREADY IN THE WIREING HARNESS. This was a sham in advertizing. It has been months now and The electric bill has not changed one bit. The fridg work now just like the old one did.

August 18 2010 at 11:45 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
wanderlandpbgv

Why should it be surprising to find yet another governmental agency that is deceptive. I believe ALL government is deceptive. Take a look at the games the banks are still playing. One bank made a 100% loan on a house over a million dollars. Then it told the watchdog committee, that it had loaned over a million dollars. Nothing said about the fact that it was to one home. Oh, no, deceived again. Now it has loaned the minimum required and it doesn't have to make any more loans. It has complied! We, the people, are getting screwed so fast and so furiously, we can barely turn around without getting it once more. Wish my sex life was half as active.

August 18 2010 at 11:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rveasybottom

Energy Star Phooey: I bought a Sears top line top loader with automatic water level control. If you opened the lid to add anything after the cycle began it assumed a maximum load and filled accordingly. What a waste. Also, after the initial fill all other parts of the cycle were cold water, no choice. What housewife doesn't open the lid to add a few more things, check the suds level and water temperature? The sears pickup man said they were busy taking these machines back.

August 18 2010 at 11:24 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rveasybottom's comment
ds35640

my wife hates her new kenmore washer, fills up with water then starts then stops and fills a little more than starts back up then stops and fills a little more. at this rate it wont last more than a yr before it wears out. will not buy anymore energy saving chit

August 18 2010 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

You mean more lax inspection and reporting standards under the Bush administration?

August 18 2010 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
krfelder

Energy star was in existence waaay before Obama!!!! please don't blam this on the President of the United States!

August 18 2010 at 11:00 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
jeremy

i worked at a lg facility as a temp and we had to go in and take off the old energy star stickers and replace them because they were false and all the machines we did were already sold to the consumer so that little sticker that said that it was all true the people did not notice the new sticker that said something totally diffrent so dont belive evrything u see in the store

August 18 2010 at 10:15 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
dterraman

but, but, but, gov man is supposed to be complete....to protect us, and care for us....say it ain`t so....gov man must get it right

August 18 2010 at 6:01 AM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply
redeemmemighty

Obama approved that Energy Star products....blame on him ! lol

August 18 2010 at 2:43 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to redeemmemighty's comment
Larry

see krfelder's comment, idiot

August 18 2010 at 11:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply