A few weeks back, I posed a question — “Is EnergyStar at the risk of becoming EnergyIrrelevant?" — that’s likely on the minds of consumers who are trying to do the right thing when shopping for energy-efficient home appliances but who have become increasingly weary of EnergyStar appliance rating standards.

To bolster consumer trust, give the EnergyStar program a much-needed boost of reliability, and continue the “overall effort by the Obama administration to improve the energy efficiency of homes and appliances to save families money,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) announced on Friday that EnergyStar will undergo an overhaul of sorts that will expand testing of EnergyStar qualified products.

Here’s how it will play out, according to a press release issued on Friday by the EPA and DOE:

DOE began tests this week on six of the most common product types: freezers, refrigerator-freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters and room air conditioners. DOE will test approximately 200 basic models at third-party, independent test laboratories over the next few months. 

EPA and DOE are also developing an expanded system that will require all products seeking the EnergyStar label to be tested in approved labs and require manufacturers to participate in an ongoing verification testing program that will ensure continued compliance.

In addition to expanding testing, the EPA and DOE will continue to lay down the law when it comes to making sure that manufacturers fully comply with EnergyStar standards. Reads the release:
Market-driven competition also provides a valuable insurance policy on the EnergyStar brand. Manufacturers know that the EnergyStar label is very attractive to consumers, and often test a competing product to ensure it complies with the requirements.  Suspected violations can be reported to the EPA or DOE for follow-up. 

When a violation is found, the right to use the EnergyStar label is revoked, corrective measures are required and the EnergyStar partnership may be terminated. For example, in 2008 under DOE pressure, LG Electronics agreed to pay back consumers for promised energy savings and provide free, in-home upgrades to improve several models of refrigerators. These cases also produce substantial unfavorable publicity for manufacturers which can be very costly and create a major disincentive for companies to violate the program requirements.

The release goes on to admit that, yes, there have been slip-ups and well-publicized violations but the compliance rate is quite high considering the staggering number of EnergyStar-branded products that are out there. What do you think of this piece of EnergyStar damage control? While it's certainly good to see the EPA and the DOE on the defense and I'm curious to see how this pans out, the "too little too late" factor lingers in my mind. 

Via [EnergyStar]

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