Energy Star Program Relies On Honor System For Some Products

Your new washer, dryer, fridge, monitor, or TV set may have an Energy Star label on it, but it turns out that nobody is making sure that means anything, reports the New York Times. Our parent organization Consumer Reports pointed out that this was a problem a year ago.

The Energy Star program is overseen by both the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, although they monitor different product categories. Last December, the EPA admitted it couldn’t really verify whether the products it oversees (computers, TVs) deserved Energy Star label. And now the Energy Department is confessing pretty much the same thing:

While the Energy Department requires manufacturers of windows and L.E.D. and fluorescent lighting to have independent laboratories evaluate their products, the report said, companies that make refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters and room air-conditioners, which consume far more energy, can certify those appliances themselves.

The problem for consumers is that unless the program is properly regulated, you could be sold an appliance that uses more energy than promised, costing you more money over time. The New York Times says the Energy Department and the EPA “signed a memorandum of understanding” last month in which they promised to have all products in the program certified by independent labs—but there’s no mention of when this will happen, if ever.

“Energy Star Appliances May Not All Be Efficient, Audit Finds” [New York Times]
“Energy Star has lost some luster” [Consumer Reports]
(Photo: tom.arthur)