The typical American home is full of useful appliances. They keep us warm and cool, give us abundant hot water, keep our clothes clean, help us with food storage and cooking, keep our indoor air clean, and provide us with much-appreciated entertainment. They might also use more electricity than necessary—unless they’re ENERGY STAR certified.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established this program in 1992 to help consumers and businesses make energy-efficient purchasing choices. The program is voluntary for manufacturers. The EPA sets energy-efficiency standards for a variety of products and manufacturers that choose to meet those standards can display the ENERGY STAR logo on their products. Savvy consumers and businesses who want to save money on electricity can then look for that logo on the products they need to buy. The standard is specific to the product, not the brand.
There are more benefits than just energy savings, too, such as:
Reduced environmental impact: Using less electricity means ENERGY STAR products leave a smaller carbon footprint and a smaller overall environmental footprint.
Long-term cost savings: You may find that ENERGY STAR products cost more up-front compared to the cheapest products in that category. However, you’ll start saving money on electricity immediately and see long-term cost savings add up.
Higher quality and performance: ENERGY STAR is a voluntary standard that manufacturers choose to meet. It’s a higher standard than an entry-level product and manufacturers have an incentive to raise the bar for ENERGY STAR product quality, not just efficiency.
Longevity: Higher-quality components needed to justify a higher purchase price should lead to a longer useful lifespan.
Rebates and incentives: Your local utility company, as well as local government agencies, may offer incentives like rebates when you purchase ENERGY STAR products, reducing their cost closer to parity with inferior standard products.
ENERGY STAR certifies a variety of products. Most of us will have most or all of the home appliances and then a smattering of the other products. It’s good to keep in mind when you’re shopping for new HVAC equipment, for example, that you can choose ENERGY STAR products and save a huge amount of money over their lifespan. Lightbulbs, too, we all use, and ENERGY STAR certifies those, as well.
The rebate page should definitely be on your list anytime you're shopping for these products, too.
Heating and Cooling
In addition to certifying home appliances, HVAC equipment, lighting, building materials, and electronics, ENERGY STAR partners with thousands of organizations to save energy and money. According to ENERGY STAR, for every $1 the EPA spends to administer the program, partners like industrial, commercial, utility, state, and local organizations add $230 of their own investment.
This investment results in the products mentioned above, as well as ENERGY STAR-certified homes, apartments, buildings, and industrial plants. Utility rebate programs reach 95% of American households, and the program has kept 4 billion tons of greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere.
Beyond home products, ENERGY STAR also takes a systems approach to home energy savings with the Home Upgrade program. This collection of six high-impact strategies to improving home performance includes the products listed above, for which you can probably get a rebate, and for which you can definitely use the 30% tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act:
The real magic—and cost savings—of this program will be apparent as a whole system, but an a la carte approach is completely valid, as well. Check out the video and get a sense of how you could incorporate improvements one product or project at a time.
In 2020 alone, the ENERGY STAR program’s impacts included:
That’s a substantial benefit in a single year, and we will need to continue and greatly expand that success as we electrify more and more of our economy and homes. Replacing fossil-fuel cars, water heaters, ovens, clothes dryers, and furnaces with electric models will have a massive impact on the electric grid and requires that we all do our part.
As Rewiring America explains, “To meet our climate goals, we must electrify nearly everything in our economy. That will require delivering about two to three times more electricity than we do today.” Delivering more electricity—clean electricity—is definitely needed, but demand reduction with tactics like ENERGY STAR and demand management with OhmConnect will continue to play an important role, as well.
Finally, get ready to love your new stuff! While a water heater may not be exciting, everyone I’ve talked to with an EV (electric vehicle) or induction cooktop says, “Wow, way better! Never going back!”