Energy Star’s Most Efficient label to single out top performing products

energy star label electrical efficiencyThis summer, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the launch of the Most Efficient initiative, a new Energy Star label awarded to products with the highest energy performance in their categories.

The Energy Star Most Efficient label is running as a pilot program through 2011. While currently limited to a select number of product categories, more may be added for 2012.

Why a new label?

The Energy Star program has seen criticism over the past few years, particularly after a 2009 DOE internal audit discovered a major fault: its failure to confirm that all products with an Energy Star label actually met the energy efficiency requirements of the program. Indeed, according to an October 2010 article in Consumer Reports Magazine, approximately 75% of dishwashers, televisions and dehumidifiers boasted Energy Star labels in 2009, though the program’s original aim was to identify the top 25% of energy efficient products.

In response to the audit’s findings, the DOE and EPA signed a memorandum of understanding last fall pledging to address some of Energy Star’s problems, notably through the creation of a “super star” program identifying the most efficient products on the market.

The Most Efficient designation is the result of this memorandum. Only awarded to the highest performing five percent of appliances in certain categories, the new label represents a top tier of products that showcase both cutting-edge technology and exceptional energy efficient performance. By tightening the criteria of what is considered “most efficient,” the Energy Star program will make these products more easily identifiable to consumers hoping to optimize savings on their energy bills and reduce their environmental impact.

What products qualify as Most Efficient?

Manufacturers hoping to earn the Most Efficient label for a specific product must apply to the EPA. The product must be Energy Star qualified and approved by a certification body recognized by the EPA, in addition to meeting the Most Efficient performance specifications.

In a May 2011 letter to its Energy Star stakeholders, the EPA identified the product categories eligible for the Most Efficient label as clothes washers, heating and cooling equipment, televisions and refrigerators and freezers. Geography plays a role for certain products, like heating and cooling equipment, as energy efficiency may be evaluated differently from one region to another. Also, assorted sizes of the same product may not all qualify as Most Efficient due to varying energy intensity. This year’s qualifying products can be found here.

What might the Most Efficient designation accomplish?

With the Most Efficient label, the Energy Star program has the potential to achieve the following:

  • reaffirm its credibility;
  • distribute more accurate information regarding the energy performance of products;
  • reward manufacturers with the greenest technology by making their products more prominent to consumers, and;
  • encourage more innovation among manufacturers.

The Energy Star label currently applies to more than 60 different kinds of products, in addition to top-performing commercial and industrial buildings and new homes. In 2010 alone, the program helped Americans save $18 billion on energy bills and prevent gas emissions equal to the annual emissions of 33 million vehicles. The Most Efficient initiative could generate even more energy savings in the years to come.

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