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Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Buy Energy-Saving Appliances

How to Buy Energy-Saving Appliances
Article From By: Karin Beuerlein
Photo: Flickr CC License: Tracy O
Is energy performance key for your next appliance or home system? Use Energy Star, the Consortium on Energy Efficiency, and Energy Guide to untangle the options.
While you're shopping for products from appliances to plumbing systems with optimal energy performance - and you are, right? - three rating programs (the Consortium on Energy Efficiency [CEE], Energy Star, and Energy Guide) can help.

Energy Star is the name you likely know, but if truly stellar energy performance revs your motor, go straight to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE).

What it means: CEE rates appliances, electronics, lighting, HVAC systems, and gas heating systems. At the website, you can download lists of products that meet CEE's criteria. Do it before you shop because - bummer - CEE doesn't put a label on compliant products.
CEE ratings are so stringent that the highest-rated Energy Star products are considered the low end of CEE's roster (and Energy Star isn't shabby!):

Appliances and HVAC systems are grouped into three tiers, taking both energy performance and water usage (if applicable) into account.

Tier 1 products meet Energy Star requirements at a minimum.

Tier 3 products are super-efficient-the cream of the crop.

CEE updates its ratings every month.

Pricing: Often high-efficiency products rated by CEE (and Energy Star) are more expensive than their less-efficient peers, but may cost less to operate annually.

Speaking of Energy Star...
Energy Star

What it means: Energy Star, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's flagship label, identifies roughly the top 25% of each product category it rates in terms of energy performance. It's the best-known and most widely applied green stamp of approval, covering more than 50 product categories, including appliances, lighting, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems.

Bad press leads to more reliable Energy Star ratings
Energy Star beefed up its standards after getting bad press in 2010, when the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported it was able to get fake products approved. All products must now be individually reviewed by Energy Star staff and tested by approved third-party labs.

But Energy Star is still trustworthy, says BuildingGreen, an independent company that educates building professionals on green product certifications:
Its standards get more stringent every two years to coincide with manufacturing cycles for new products.

It responded quickly after being called on the carpet by changing its product approval process.

It's easy to find Energy Star labels in the store, but if you want to research your purchase in advance, download compliant product lists.

Pricing: Often high-efficiency products rated by Energy Star are more expensive than their less-efficient counterparts, but you save money on annual operating costs.
Energy Guide
OK, one more rating label to add to the mix. You've probably seen the ubiquitous yellow Energy Guide sticker on new appliances in stores.

What it means: Energy Guide lists the manufacturers' self-reported performance numbers, not the results of independent third-party testing. Plus, those numbers may not reflect how you'll use the product in your own home (do you make a special effort to use the most energy-efficient settings at all times, or do you dry tons of laundry on high heat?) or the rates your utility charges.
So if you use Energy Guide labels at all, use them to compare models in the store in terms of up-front cost vs. annual operating cost. But the labels don't provide enough context to tell you whether a product is really the best energy-saving deal you can get for the price. That's where Energy Star and CEE come in.

Pricing: Energy Guide labels are government mandated and appear on all products in all price ranges. So it's not a way to sort by price.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

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