Understanding Energy Star Ratings

Learn the truth about energy efficiency in your home appliances

Your utility bills have a way of keeping secrets. After all, you assume your heating bills go up during the winter and your electricity bills go up during the summer, so you may not pay attention to the small discrepancies that can plague your bill each month.

For example - old and dirty appliances have a way of adding to your energy usage. Lint-clogged vents in your dryer can cause you to use more energy to dry your clothes. And that old dishwasher is using more electricity and gallons of water than you realize. Those cracked or hardened refrigerator door gaskets just ooze energy.

But while no one likes to think about the cost of buying new appliances, replacing your old ones appliances may help you save money. And were not just talking about finding something on sale.

How can spending money help me save?

Shop in any appliance store and dryers displayed side by side may cost about the same amount of cash, but the cost to run them may be dramatically different. "You have to consider how much it costs to run your appliances, not just how much they cost," says Dave Borowski, a spokesperson for Direct Energy.

Thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, it's possible to compare energy costs on various products. Energy Star promotes energy savings through the sharing of information between companies to help identify and promote energy-efficient products so consumers can save money and protect the environment.

Energy guide ratings for appliances will show their typical usage in kWhs per year — the lower the energy number, the more cost efficient it is to run, says Borowski. If you're purchasing appliances, be sure to look for the Energy Star rating and energy guides. An appliance labeled 'Energy Efficient' may be low energy rated, but may not meet the standards to be an Energy Star product.

Setting the standard

According to the EPA, products are bestowed Energy Star labels if they meet the following criteria:

Consumers should keep in mind that the Energy Star label focuses on efficiency. A major appliance which sports the Energy Star label, is not necessarily a better product than a comparable model, but in order to be rated Energy Star, it must meet very strict energy efficiency guidelines as set out by that program, Borowski says.

Considering recent developments in technology, you may not even be aware of some of the energy-saving features of today's appliances.

There have also been many major advances in technologies, leading to such energy savers as LED lighting and 'stand-by' product features, says Borowski. Research and development is still ongoing, as manufacturers strive to deliver low cost energy products.

 

In other words, if you find an Energy Star-labeled product, you may save a few bucks and do you part to help the environment.

Appliances carrying the Energy Star rating typically are 10 to 20 percent more energy efficient than non-rated models, Borowski says. This means, you'll not only save money, but help your environment as well.

Before you begin shopping for any power-reliant product, check out its Energy Star rating online at http://energystar.gov/productfinder.

 

Borowski says consumers should also consider the CEE tier I, II or III rating shown on new washers, dishwashers, refrigerators or air conditioners , which means that the appliance is even more efficient.

While the CEE rating does not replace an Energy Star rating, it complements it and denotes an appliance that is very efficient, he says.

Bigger picture

Since Energy Star's onset in 1992, the government has partnered with other industry members, to promote and expand the scope of this project to include, not only major appliances, but also new homes and buildings.

According to the EPA, the National Energy Performance Rating is an external benchmark that helps energy managers assess how efficiently a building uses energy, relative to similar buildings nationwide. The rating system's 1100 scale allows everyone to quickly understand how a building is performing — a rating of 50 indicates average energy performance, while a rating of 75 or better indicates top performance.

The rating is calculated based on information about a building, such as its size, location, number of occupants, number of computers, and more. The rating system estimates how much energy the building would use if it were the best performing, the worst performing, and every level in between. The system then compares the actual energy data you entered to the estimate to determine where your building ranks relative to its peers.

If you'd like to know how your home performs in regards to energy efficiency, check out Energy Stars Home Energy Yardstick site at https://www.energystar.gov.

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