The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) are working to regain consumer trust in the Energy Star label after an audit by the Government Accountability Office unveiled numerous cases of “greenwashing.” The audit found that the Energy Star label — which designates the most energy-efficient household appliances and electronics — had been granted to bogus, radically inefficient products (including a gasoline-powered alarm clock), and that the Energy Star certification process is easily manipulated.
In response, the EPA and DOE announced in March that they’re making product-testing guidelines more stringent and taking steps to weed out manufacturers whose products aren’t up to Energy Star standards. The DOE is testing six of the most commonly used appliances — freezers, refrigerator-freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters and room air conditioners — at third-party, independent laboratories. Also, the EPA and DOE are developing a system that will require companies vying for the Energy Star label in the future to have their products tested only in approved labs.
Since the DOE’s announcement, it has penalized a number of manufacturers, disqualifying inefficient compact fluorescent light bulbs and demanding compliance with energy-use reporting requirements, among other actions. Thanks to these improvements, the Energy Star program will hopefully be a valuable tool for consumers interested in purchasing energy efficient appliances.