Whether you live in Dallas or Timbuktu, appliance shopping is rarely fun. You leave the house knowing you’re about to be hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars out of pocket. Most likely, you’re replacing something that broke unexpectedly—which is a lot less fun than spending the cash on that trip to Hawaii you’ve been planning. Appliance showrooms can have hundreds of nearly-identical models, and how are you supposed to know which one to choose?
As difficult as it can be to understand the labels, efficiency claims, and “value deals” that are part of the appliance buying experience, there’s one logo you can depend on as long as you understand what it means. Appliances with the ENERGY STAR® logo are making a huge impact on consumers in the United States and abroad. Looking for this label can potentially save you energy (and save you money) in the long run.
What the ENERGY STAR Logo Actually Means
This isn’t just another marketing trick by appliance manufacturers—the ENERGY STAR logo actually stems from a program that the Environmental Protection Agency? (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) founded back in 1992. Since then, this program has been adapted for use around the world, including Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, and the European Union. That’s some serious regulatory power backing up your appliances.
In order to use the logo, manufacturers have to submit their appliances for testing by the EPA. Each category has a threshold for acceptance—dishwashers, for instance, must use 41% less energy than the average conventional model in order to be considered ENERGY STAR compliant. Each category of appliance has a different rating system:
|Appliance Type||Energy Savings|
|Entire house (new build)||15%|
|Small household electronics||90%|
And, as of 2006, you can even buy a new house that has the ENERGY STAR stamp of approval. This means that the new construction includes elements that meet specific standards such as efficient windows, energy saving appliances, improved heating/cooling fixtures, and adherence to certain construction codes. When this trend began, only 12% of new houses received the logo. Now, ten years later, there are more than 1.5 million of these homes in the country.
The Benefit of Choosing ENERGY STAR Appliances
ENERGY STAR appliances in each category earn their logo in different ways, but all reflect technological efforts on behalf of manufacturers to make their products more energy efficient. A winning refrigerator might come with additional insulation made from a more effective new material. A washing machine may ditch a central agitator in exchange for a more efficient higher-speed spin cycle. Earning the ENERGY STAR logo means that a model has won in a race to the top as far as green energy goes.
It’s easiest to see the benefit of this program when you look at the numbers. The EPA began evaluating the impact of their program in 2000, so we’ve had nearly two decades of research on how consumers are interacting with these products—and how much money they’re actually saving:
- By 2007, Americans saved more than $16 billion on utility bills by using ENERGY STAR appliances.
- In 2012, use of ENERGY STAR office equipment saved businesses upwards of $50 billion on their utilities.
- A consumer survey performed in 2015 showed that 78% of people who purchased an ENERGY STAR product were likely to recommend these labeled products to a friend.
Obviously, this program has grown into a serious goldmine for homeowners. For specific savings information on particular products, you can always consult the program’s Savings Calculator—although it can be hard to accurately estimate the exact amount you’re really saving.
How to Choose an ENERGY STAR Product
While the program is undeniably successful, here are certain aspects to it that discerning consumers need to be aware of. The ENERGY STAR label doesn’t necessarily mean that the dishwasher you’re standing in front of is the most energy efficient model on the market. It just means that it’s one of the models that beats the average. These appliances can be less than affordable, and only time will tell if their advanced electronics require more frequent replacement than our old 1980’s standby.
That being said, it’s a safe bet that your ENERGY STAR appliance will earn back its purchase price in a matter of years. Your electric bill may show significantly lower usage compared with your original appliances, and these savings can add up to the full price of your fridge or washer in about five years’ time, depending on your household.
If you’re deciding to go for ENERGY STAR appliances, it helps to be prepared before you enter the shiny showroom of countless options:
- Know where to look. Be aware that many appliances today have a large yellow “Energy guide” label where you can find the ENERGY STAR logo. If you can’t find it, you can always ask a salesperson whether the model you’re considering meets the program’s standards.
- Arrive with some basic knowledge. If you’d like to do some research online on the appliances you might be interested in, the program’s Most Efficient 2017 page is a good place to start. You’ll be able to see the models that the EPA and DOE have rated as best in class, and you can create an informed budget ahead of time.
- Keep an open mind. You might be surprised at what you find both in store and online. For example, the Nest thermostat was recently the first thermostat in the United States to earn the program’s distinction. Smart-home lovers rejoice!
With the help of the ENERGY STAR program, choosing a green appliance becomes just a little bit easier. The savings on your electric bill don’t hurt either. We definitely recommend you give the program a try.
Besides choosing energy efficient appliances, switching to a third party energy supplier is another way to save you money on your electric bill. At Liberty Power, we can provide you with a fixed rate plan that has a set supply rate based on how much you use—and, if you’re buying an ENERGY STAR appliance, you’re probably going to be using less anyway! We also offer competitive market rate plans and renewable energy products that promote cleaner electricity. Contact us today to learn more about how switching your appliances (and switching your provider) can help make your utility bill more manageable.