As many of our regular readers know, we have long supported and still recommend purchasing ENERGY STAR® rated products. Unfortunately, though there have been some issues that have popped up lately that have caused many groups and individuals to question if the program is more fiction than fact. On the flip side, we have some people being quoted as saying – “quit picking on them, they are the most the most successful program out there” & “this is the perfect example of media and under-educated creating fear and confusion for general public.”
Pointless or are there some real issues?
As almost everyone knows, the government has a few agencies and other programs to verify that other agencies are doing what they say they are doing. Recently the GAO conducted a study, to test the ENERGY STAR’s rating program & found some issues with it. What really brought this to a head and lead to an almost pack bashing mentality was the gas powered alarm clock along with a few other products that were hilarious at best. In all honesty, while I can see a few issues with it (mostly in discrediting the branding), it truthfully is a non-issue & the problem can easily be corrected.
The biggest issue I see though is an earlier report done on the actual standards by the EPA’s own Office of the Inspector General. In this report, not only did they test ENERGY STAR rated equipment, but compared it to “regular” equipment and appliances. While most of the ENERGY STAR equipment performed as advertised, in many cases though, the regular equipment outperformed it. This report does bring out some interesting issues, which do need to be addressed before many of us find the labels to be completely irrelevant. In that spirit, let’s take a quick look at the issues and what they can do to fix them.
While I do not see this as a big issue, this can easily be corrected by requiring that all products have been tested by the UL, CSA, or other applicable testing body. While they are at it, they could even have them test the energy usage to verify that the claims are accurate on electrical usage.
We need four sets of numbers:
Right now, all manufacturers are required to state the approximate energy used in a given year. While this is a nice way of comparing products, it is pretty much worthless. In reality, we need four sets of numbers to make a truly informed choice.
- Standby Power Used: AKA Ghost power usage – when your TV is turned off it is still using electricity.
- Power Used in Energy Savings Mode: For TV’s, Computers, etc… how much power is used in an hour – For appliances, how much is used for one full cycle
- Default Power Used: If I buy a new dishwasher and simply press start, how much power is going to be used. One reason why this is important is that they will run their calculations based on XY & Z, which requires one to select those options. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t matter how many times I will tell or show my kids something, they just don’t like to spend that extra 2 seconds.
- Max Power Used: I can see it now, the defaults now get set to energy savings mode, but most people are not going to want to air dry their dishes, or they always select “Pots & Pans” to make sure everything gets cleaned. This should be accounted for.
The real numbers please (Part 1):
Seeing that all the manufactures numbers are actually required to be listed, it should not be too hard for the EPA to figure out what the real averages really are and adjust the programs numbers yearly. Every year we should actually see an improvement on the Energy Savings based on these numbers.
A new labeling process:
At this time, a manufacturer has to sign up for the voluntary program and send in the applicable data to get a sticker. Many manufacturers actually do not think this program is actually beneficial to them and is too much of a headache to bother with. Does this stop them from innovating products and working at making them better? Apparently not, based on the results of the EPA’s own testing by the OIG. So what would happen if the ENERGY STAR program was based on the real numbers system based above, and the sticker was automatically issued for products that exceed the EnergyStar standard? I could this actually creating a big boost in product development and truly help American’s and others truly find the most energy efficient product available.
While there are numerous ways of setting up testing protocols, etc… there are only two groups that can handle this properly. Either it should be tested as part of the UL process, or it should be left to the manufacturers. In the famous words of Ronald Reagan, “Trust but Verify” – the manufacturer’s claims can be spot checked by an EnergyStar inspector using a Kill-A-Watt system at their QA facilities here in the States. If a manufacturer is found promoting false readings, then they should be nailed to the wall by the FTC & have to either send the customers a rebate or recall all the machines.
The real numbers please (Part 2):
I just love it when agencies that are continuously looking for more funding and/or are trying to justify their budgets get to calculate their own numbers. Let’s be honest here, as an agency, you haven’t saved X amount of greenhouse gasses or electricity. The manufacturer’s that designed and produced the units followed up the consumers that purchased them really does. Because the program does not hand out the stickers based on actual numbers and some products actually exceed your standards, one could say based off your accounting procedures that you actually added X amount of greenhouse gasses to the environment.
In closing, while we still feel that the overall program is a good one, some serious changes need to be made to keep it relevant. I also have to question why the EPA is actually running the program in conjunction with the DOE, instead of the DOE being fully in charge of it. I think that this is truly a mistake and it should be corrected.