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Understanding Energy Star Ratings on Common Appliances

April 5, 2010

Energy deregulation that has been implemented in several states including Texas has provided consumers with the power to choose which Texas electric company shall provide their power needs. However, even if given the option to choose a cheap electricity plan, consumers should still conserve and make efficient use of power — and one way they can do this is to use  appliances with Energy Star ratings.

Although most consumers are aware that these appliances with the Energy Star rating are practically better and therefore more expensive that other brands, they are not aware of how these appliances got rated in the first place and how they can actually benefit with the use of Energy Star rated units. Most consumers only see the higher price difference between Energy Star products and regular brands, but have not realized that these additional costs upon purchase would be well worth the  energy savings in the long run.

Initiated in 1992 by the Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Star program have already realized $19 billion in utility bill savings in 2008, aside from avoiding the emission of greenhouse gasses equivalent of almost 29 million cars. With 10 to 66 percent reduction in energy or water consumption than regular models, Energy Star rated appliances would be ideal for use in home trying to conserve their electricity resources. 

What Does the Energy Star Rating on Appliances Mean?

An appliance tagged with an Energy Star means it has qualified with the energy efficiency requirements set by the US Department of Energy and the US Environmental Protection Agency. What this means is that the appliance consumes 10-50% less energy that non-rated models but provides the same level of quality in performance.

Aside from the realized energy savings that a standard household can save from their electricity bills, Energy Star appliances produce less electromagnetic field emissions, air-conditioning loads, and lesser noise produced by the unit’s transformers or cooling fans. This higher efficiency and performance ratings in Energy Star rated appliances account for the higher price tags that these models have as compared to regular models.

But there is another price tag that consumers should be aware of — the cost of energy that these appliances consume. Energy Star units are more power-efficient and consume less energy for the same performance levels. This can be translated to lower electricity bills. To help consumers see how efficient their Energy Star appliance can be, they can check out the Energy Guide level tagged to these appliances.

What is the FTC’s Energy Guide Label? 

The Energy Guide level is required displayed on most consumer electronic and electrical appliances by the Federal Trade Commission. This label provides consumers with information on the yearly cost required to run the appliance, giving consumers the option to choose which model can give them the highest savings from their electric utility bills in the long run.

The label contains a graphical representation of the energy consumptions of similar models for a particular appliance, ranging from the least to the highest energy consumption. The rating of the current model is indicated in the label, providing an estimate of the appliance’s yearly energy consumption. The lower this number, the more-efficient the appliance is and the higher savings can be realized.

How Efficient are Common Appliances with Energy Star Ratings?

There are over 15,000 organizations that have partnered with Energy Star to produce energy-efficient models and units. Although Energy Star does not provide ratings for all appliances, most consumer or household units have their own ratings and standards set by the program. This includes the following household appliances:

* Refrigerators — units qualified for the Energy Star use less energy than it is required to run a 75-watt light bulb continuously. Compared with older models (1993 and older) qualified models can realize up to 50 percent in savings from energy consumption.

* Washers — Standard washers consume 40 gallons of water per wash load while Energy Star certified units only consume 16-25 gallons and less energy consumption. Front loading washing machines are the most efficient and can save up to 12,500 gallons of water annually.

* Dishwashers — Energy Star qualified units can save up to 10 percent in energy consumption and costs per year, aside from the over 490 gallons of savings in water consumption.

* Freezers — Freezers qualified for the Energy Star standards can realize up to 10% to 50% reduction in energy consumption as compared to regular models. The older the model compared to, the higher the energy savings can be realized.

* Computers — Energy star compliant models can save up to 70% in energy consumption. Features include low-power mode particularly during inactive phases and can consume only less than 15 watts of power.

As an added incentive, the new government economic stimulus program Cash for Appliances provide consumers with $50 to $200 rebates for purchases of energy-efficient appliances to replace old and less efficient units they have in existence. Qualification of a particular appliance may differ from state to state but one thing is common — all should be Energy Star compliant.

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