Energy adviser: Make wise buy using Energy Star

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If you are interested in buying a new appliance at a Vancouver-area retail store, you will probably want to ask about the product’s energy usage and how much it will cost to operate. For many, that’s become part of the shopping experience these days.

All appliances are required to display the amount of energy needed to power the machine. But the labels can be a bit confusing if you’re not sure what to look for. An easy way to compare usage and cost of everything from refrigerators to washing machines is to use Energy Star labeling. Energy Star certification is an addition to the required usage labeling and guarantees that the appliance is more energy efficient than traditional models.

Products and appliances that earn the Energy Star label must first meet efficiency requirements as outlined by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which unveiled the program in 1992.

Qualified products must deliver the features and performance demanded by consumers, in addition to increased energy efficiency. If the Energy Star-qualified product costs more than a conventional, less-efficient counterpart, then you must be able to recover your investment through increased energy efficiency and savings on your utility bill over a reasonable amount of time. Energy Star labeling is based on these principles:

• Energy efficiency can be achieved through broadly available, non-proprietary technologies offered by more than one manufacturer.

• Product energy consumption and performance can be measured and verified through testing.

• Labeling would effectively differentiate products and be visible for purchasers.

The whole idea is to make it easy for you to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features and comfort.

60 categories

If it has been awhile since you last bought a new appliance, you may be surprised by how much more efficient new units are than those of 20 years ago and how using Energy Star labeling comparisons will help you make the best purchase.

Energy Star testing and labeling applies to more than 60 product categories and more than 40,000 individual product models. The program estimates that Americans are saving $18 billion a year on utility bills and have cut annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 29 million vehicles by choosing Energy Star.

Through 2010, more than 20,000 organizations partnered with the EPA on Energy Star programs. More than 1,600 manufacturers are using Energy Star labels.

A label within a label

While our general understanding of Energy Star labeling has increased, energy counselors at Clark Public Utilities say that some consumers may not know that there can be different levels of efficiency for appliances that receive the Energy Star label. So don’t assume the label means they’re all the same.

Recently, Energy Star administrators issued new tighter rules for appliances. EPA staff will now review each product application. Manufacturers must submit complete lab test results for products before applying for Energy Star certification.

Appliance technology continues to evolve, with the next generation expected to offer “energy sensitive” automated products that will run during off-peak hours when power demand is lower and may cost less is the future.

Other appliances may automatically turn off to save on “ghost” standby power costs. All of these new appliances will need clear labeling from Energy Star to help consumers make the best cost-effective purchase investments.

To find out more, visit www.energystar.gov.

Energy Adviser is produced by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors and staff, who provide conservation and energy use information. For more information, call 360-992-3355, email ecod@clarkpud.com or visit www.clarkpublicutilities.com.