Energy Star Label Carries No Guarantee

October 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
That Energy Star label on your appliance is supposed to save the environment and save you some money in the process. But is the logo all it's cracked up to be? The Department of Energy says the Energy Star program is working. Last year Americans using Energy Star appliances saved enough energy to power 10 million homes and avoid greenhouse gas emissions from 12 million cars, all while saving $6-billion dollars.

But there are definitely some issues that still need to be worked out.

The Energy Star label is intended to guarantee consumers a product is energy efficient. But at Consumer Reports labs, Mark Connolly has found appliances that should not have the Energy Star logo.

The label claims an energy bill of $60-dollars a year but consumer reports says it's actually double.

Of hundreds of products Connolly tests every year, he estimates 5 to10 percent should not be labeled Energy Star.

"For the most part, the products that we test that claim to be Energy Star are in fact telling the truth. But there are enough products out there giving us concern," said Connolly.

Those concerns are shared by the Department of Energy's Inspector General who audited the program, finding the department had not implemented planned improvements in the Energy Star program. The report concludes those delays could reduce consumer confidence in the integrity of the Energy Star label.

"The Inspector General identified a number of improvements to the program. And frankly we agree with those improvements. And we've put a plan in place to get all those improvements implemented," said Cathy Zoi with the Department of Energy.

But as the Department of Energy works on those improvements, it's in the process of planning a rebate program for consumers buying Energy Star products. $300-million dollars of stimulus money is being used.

Can buyers be confident those products are as energy efficient as they claim to be?

"There have been examples that are very rare where a manufacturer has misused or misappropriated or misapplied the Energy Star logo. And when the Department of Energy or when the E.P.A. has found out about that, they've taken steps, they've taken action, and those manufacturers have had to recompense people who have bought those appliances," said Zoi.

The Department of Energy said that rebate program, known as the cash for clunkers for appliances, will roll out late this year or early next year.

California will receive just over $35 million dollars. Each state will decide what's covered and how much the rebates will be for each appliance.



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