ENERGY STAR Labels: What You Need to Know

Energy Star Labels - Quicken Loans Zing Blog Back in 1992, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conceived the idea of the ENERGY STAR certification. They wanted to show companies that they could still make or even increase profits by creating eco-friendly products in energy-efficient factories. The program began with only computers and printers, but it soon expanded to include other electronics, appliances and even buildings.

It seems like everything I look at has an ENERGY STAR label. Something I’ve wondered about though is what this label means. What does it take for something to be ENERGY STAR certified? What benefits do I get from purchasing these products and are they worth the money?

To receive an ENERGY STAR certification from the EPA, products have to meet specific requirements:

  • The product tested must meet energy-efficiency benchmarks established by the EPA.
  • Consumers can clearly identify the label.
  • While meeting the needs and demands of consumers, the product also must decrease energy dependency.
  • The item has to enhance energy savings nationwide.
  • The product must save the consumer money on energy bills over time if it costs more to run than a non-ENERGY STAR rated product.

The one point that sticks out most of all is that whatever you decide to buy that has an ENERGY STAR label must offer a return on investment through energy savings. To be honest, that’s probably what many of us care about, and saving money on energy bills is what draws most of us to these products.

Plus, ENERGY STAR labels can save you even more money if they qualify for state or federal energy tax credits and incentives. Although some have expired, you can check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency and learn about specific incentives in your state.

If you’re like me, you might feel pretty good knowing you bought something that has an ENERGY STAR label. After all, these labels suggest you’ll save money and become less energy dependent over time…but how much can you expect to save?

That’s one of the issues with ENERGY STAR labels – there’s a certain air of mystery still behind how much savings you can actually expect. You don’t really see this information on their site either; they really only provide rough percentage estimates of savings. Potentially saving $150 a year because I bought an efficient furnace speaks more to me than saving 10% on my energy bill. I’m lazy. I don’t want to have to break out bills and calculators to figure out my savings.

Honestly, it also takes a bit of digging on the ENERGY STAR site to find detailed information. Once you do find it, you might become overwhelmed. There are tons of guides and learning resources for CFL light bulbs alone – not to mention an Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of bulb options on it.

If I’m going to shop for energy-efficient items for my home, I’m going to do two things. First, I’ll do look up information in places like Consumer Reports or Mother Earth News. They do a great job distilling all the information available out there on energy-efficient products. Second, I’ll pay attention to the Energy Guide labels in the store so I can compare products side-by-side. Plus, Energy Guide labels show estimates of actual dollars you could save.

Just because it has an ENERGY STAR label doesn’t mean it’s ending up in my home. The label is one tool of many to help you chose the most efficient products. Be smart about purchasing your next energy-efficient appliance or electronic device, and do your research before shelling out the cash.

Does the ENERGY STAR label impact which appliances or electronics you buy? Share your thoughts with other Zing readers!

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