Digital Crave

Can you trust the Energy Star sticker?

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Energy Star

Do you trust the Energy Star sticker you see when shopping for appliances and electronics? Would you still trust it if you knew the agency responsible for Energy Star once approved a gasoline-powered alarm clock? The label is supposed to help consumers make wise choices. However, simply choosing a product with an Energy Star sticker is like buying processed foods advertised as “heart healthy” or “low fat.” Those claims may be true, but they’re not always accurate.

In 2010, The New York Times reported that critical audits caused the federal government to tighten the certification process for products bearing the Energy Star label.

“The Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.) and the Energy Department’s inspector general issued reports detailing significant failings with the process. The G.A.O. found, for example, that the Energy Star program had granted the label to nonexistent products, including a ‘gasoline-powered alarm clock,’ submitted by auditors posing as manufacturers.”

“The accountability office said it had discovered that once a company registered as an Energy Star partner, it could download the logo from a government Web site and attach it to products for which it had not even requested approval.”

The story goes on to say that all tests submitted by manufacturers will now have to be from independent certified labs. In June, the EPA revised its Energy Star requirements for residential refrigerators and freezers. Under the new standards, Energy Star certified refrigerators and freezers will use at least 10 percent less energy than models meeting 2014 federal minimum efficiency standards. The EPA claims that if all refrigerators and freezers sold in the United States were to meet the updated requirements, energy cost savings would grow to more than $890 million each year and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of those from more than one million vehicles.

The EPA established the voluntary Energy Star program it in 1992, under the authority of the Clean Air Act, to “conduct a basic engineering research and technology program to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate non–regulatory strategies and technologies for reducing air pollution.”

Enervee Score

As is the case with most government services, the Energy Star program is facing competition from the private sector. Into this steps Enervee, a website service that makes it easy to find the most energy-efficient appliances and electronics. Before purchasing an appliance or piece of large technology (such as a TV or computer), users can visit the Enervee website to see how much money they will spend annually on their electricity bill as a result of purchasing this product. The website allows users to narrow their search for more specific results by providing their zip code and electricity provider for current rates. Matthias Kurwig, the CEO of Enervee, created the site with his partner and friend, Don Epperson. Their friendship goes back more than a decade, both working in the digital marketing and media field.

“We wanted to do something more meaningful. Three years ago we were both in the process of buying appliances for new homes. Nobody really tells you the actual difference between these products. There’s nothing there. Only the government services, but they’re not integrated,” Kurwig said.

Kurwig says the problem with government energy guidelines and benchmarks is that they are typically based on outdated data. For instance, certification data set for refrigerators provided by Energy Star in July shows some models qualified as long ago as 2005. The current Energy Star refrigerator specification was established in 2008, meaning the threshold for earning the Energy Star certification does not reflect the current mix of products on the market. According to Kurwig, most new products achieve Energy Star certification. But they are not created equal.

“We look at Enervee not just as s site. We really think about it as a platform that provides this data by combing product energy efficiency, consumption data and commerce data. It changes daily.”

Enervee’s goal is to showcase energy efficient products and provide real-time analysis of not only the best prices available for said product, but also how much you’re going to spend to operate it over its lifetime. Daily aggregating crunches numbers to showcase the best offers from sites such as Amazon and eBay, as well as traditional retailers.

“It’s like a shopping comparison site paired with energy efficiency data,” Kurwig says.

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