Energy Adviser: Little yellow label aids energy-conscious consumers

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A playing-card sized yellow sticker carries the weight of three federal agencies, the vetting of standardized tests and the power of regulations when it’s stuck on the side of an appliance. All that, and glue, backs up the EnergyGuide tag, making it the authority to consult before you buy any energy-efficient product.

The Federal Trade Commission administers the EnergyGuide label program. The label is required by law on the product categories the program covers. Clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, televisions, water heaters, window air conditioners, central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps and pool heaters are some of the products carrying the EnergyGuide label. Products possessing almost the same energy efficiency won’t carry an EnergyGuide label, such as ovens, clothes dryers, humidifiers and dehumidifiers.

The Department of Energy sets the standards for the minimum energy efficiency of the categories of products covered by the label. The DOE develops tests and requires manufacturers to use them to certify the energy efficiency of their appliances. The companies must declare the test results on the EnergyGuide label displayed on its appliances.

The yellow label estimates how much energy the appliance consumes, compares its energy use to similar products and approximates the annual operating cost. Of course, your cost is tied to the Clark Public Utility rates and the type and source of energy. EnergyGuide labels frequently show whether the product is EnergyStar qualified.

Since 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency has administered the voluntary EnergyStar program to reduce pollutants and toxic emissions caused by wasted energy. EnergyStar products are independently certified to save energy without sacrificing functionality or features.

Any product receiving the EnergyStar must also carry the EnergyGuide label. The EnergyStar logo will usually appear on the lower right corner of the EnergyGuide label on certified products.

Both labels provide consumers reliable information. The difference between the two is the EnergyGuide includes specific information on each model’s energy consumption and cost. In contrast, the EnergyStar label appears only on those models that meet strict criteria for energy efficiency. The EnergyStar program aims to identify the top 25 percent most energy-efficient products in each market category. This makes it easy for consumers to identify those products that are best for saving energy, money and protecting the environment.

The EnergyStar program covers a broad set of more than 65 product categories. Its label can be found on the appliances already mentioned, as well as on products ranging from light bulbs to commercial food service equipment. For a complete list of categories covered by EnergyStar, and links to models that have earned the label, see EnergyStar.

According to the EPA, its EnergyStar program has helped millions of Americans and thousands of businesses conserve energy, save money and protect the environment. The EPA added that more than 4.5 billion EnergyStar products have been sold during the past two decades.

Sometimes knowing where to look is all you need to know to find your answer. These days, searching the Internet seems to tell us everything. Or so it would seem. But it’s the yellow sticker knowledge that makes us conscientious consumers of energy. So if you are shopping for energy-efficient appliances, read that yellow tag closely or contact a Clark Public Utilities energy counselor with questions at 360-992-3355 or ecod@clarkpud.com.

“Replacing appliances and equipment is an investment, and weighing the return on investment when it comes to energy efficiency can be tricky,” said DuWayne Dunham, Clark Public Utilities energy counselor. “We always have an energy counselor available during business hours, and we can help.”

Energy adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.