Welcome back to TSL’s Green Glossary, where we help define and elaborate common sustainability terms, qualifications and certifications. This week, TSL is going to give our readers the low down on Energy Star. One can imagine nearly everyone has heard of Energy Star appliances, electronics and more, but how many people know what qualifies a product for the energy star label or who oversees this process? That’s what TSL is here for.
A quick history — back in 1992, before an inconvenient truth, the global warming debate and countless other landmark environmental events, the United States Environmental Protection Agency introduced Energy Star as a labeling program that identified and promoted energy efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first labeled products were computers and monitors (I know, who knew there were computers back in 92!? – just joking). In 1995, additional office equipment and residential heating and cooling equipment was added. It didn’t stop there. The next year the EPA partnered with the US Department of Energy to develop particular product categories, which currently include new residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
Now that that’s squared away, let’s get down to the real question: how does a product obtain an Energy Star rating? How the product is rated and evaluated depends on the product, but there are set basic standards for all products. They are:
- Product categories must contribute significant energy savings nationwide.
- Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency.
- If the qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, purchasers will recover their investment in increased energy efficiency through utility bill savings, within a reasonable period of time.
- Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.
- Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified with testing.
- Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.
Want a specific example? Sure, let’s talk about the process for certifying windows, doors and skylights. In this case, there are three main categories. They are:
1) Products must be manufactured by Energy Star partners. A comprehensive list of partners can be viewed here.
2) Products must be independently tested and certified for energy performance by a third party. That party is the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). If you want to learn more about the nitty gritty of their individual rating system, check it out here.
3) The NFRC ratings also must meet the energy efficiency guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Energy. These guidelines are greatly dependent on region and can be viewed here.
So there you go. While it’s impossible to delve completely into the complicated world of Energy Star products from process to certification, TSL hopes you have a bit better of an idea what that label means and why it’s important to buy Energy Star products.