Energy Star was born in 1992 as the child of the EPA and the Department of Energy as a volunteer labeling program for devices that are 10 to 20 percent more efficient than the federal energy regulation. Since then, over 17,000 businesses have received this label in some capacity, but has the star lost its magic?

Our friends at NPR seem to think so, and so do we.

This past Friday, NPR hosted Dr. Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman, the Deputy Home Editor for Consumer Reports, and she outlined two reasons why the Energy Star program no longer works.

Image courtesy of Grist
Pictured: EPA-approved innovation (image courtesy Grist)

The problem is that companies do their own product tests and submit results for approval. Dr. Kuperszmid-Lehram explains this system has led to some absurd results, such as a gas-powered alarm clock receiving an Energy Star. And, if that isn’t enough to erode legitimacy in the label, a feather duster-space heater received one too.

Since companies supply their own testing results, Energy Star does not provide due diligence to ensure the devices actually perform as advertised.  For this reason, Dr. Kuperszmid-Lehrman suggests Energy Star update their tests, procedures and standards – similar to what her own group, Consumer Reports, has in place.

This raises an important question: “Why is the government in the business of producing energy efficiency certifications?” Who do you trust more to give advice on products, Consumer Reports or the federal government? Instead of continuing this program, we should let private alternatives take over.

Buildings have the private Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).  Let Consumer Reports, JD Power and Associates, Underwriters Laboratories,  CNET, or any other private efforts emerge to provide energy efficiency standards that make manufacturers compete for environmentally friendly labels.  The consumer is informed, labels are held accountable, and energy is actually saved – probably some money, too.

If you have a good idea for holding energy-efficient labels accountable, leave it in the comment section below.

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