Most homeowners become pretty smart about saving money even if they didn't start out at that way. We're likely to make do with the appliances and electronics that came with a house. Why get rid of something that works fine? But there comes a day when every machine needs replacing.

When you're shopping for home appliances, entertainment devices, and computer equipment, you often sort through dozens of specs and features. You weigh what you're getting for your money. One of the specs we seldom consider, however, is energy consumption—even when a lot of money is on the line.

Product photos on websites and in ads, and shiny new appliances on showroom floors, all look enticing. Sales and discounts can bring big-name brands down to the same price range as competitors, increasing your choices. It can be hard for homeowners to choose. But if you knew that one item was 41% more energy efficient than another, wouldn't that make your choice easier?

The Energy Star Difference

The Energy Star logo on a dishwasher tells you at a glance that the machine saves at least 41% in energy costs compared to a standard dishwasher. For a refrigerator to qualify for the label, it must save 20%. Each equipment category has its own threshold, with the shared goal of using energy better and saving the consumer money.

To be certified, not only do products have to save money on energy costs, but they must also work as well or better than standard items. This makes the logo a sign of quality as much as efficiency. Here are some of the requirements and specs for common household appliances and electronics.

  • Computers. Qualifications are twofold. Limits are set on hazardous materials, such as lead and mercury (0.1%); computers must lend itself to easy recycling by coming apart with common tools, by hand, or by a recycler's automated process.
  • Refrigerators. Certified refrigerators need 20% savings over the minimum standard.
  • Dishwashers. Need at least 41% savings.
  • Heating and cooling systems. Most heating and cooling systems have a yellow EnergyGuide label showing the annual cost of operation compared to other models. Energy Star air conditioners are at least 10% more efficient than minimum U.S. government standards.
  • Televisions. Qualified TVs use 30% less energy on average. Limits are also set on how much power the TV can use in standby.
  • Other electronics. According to Wikipedia, other qualified home electronics include cordless phones, battery chargers, and external power adapters, "most of which use 90% less energy."

Certified Homes Are 20% More Energy-Efficient

Approaching its 29th birthday, Energy Star boasts that it has helped save American households and businesses 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by more than 3.5 billion metric tons, equivalent to the annual emissions of 750 million automobiles.¹ New homes or apartments that earn the Energy Star label are 20% more energy-efficient on average.

Since 2011, Energy Star testing must be performed by third-party labs, thus removing a loophole that allowed some manufacturers to self-certify.

The program was founded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992. It has evolved and adapted over the years to meet advances in manufacturing and testing, to close loopholes, and to entice such international partners as Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. In 2017 the program survived being axed by President Trump, thanks to bipartisan pushback and also vigorous support by environmental groups and businesses.

Energy Star label

Label from Wikipedia

The Label Is Found on More Than 75 Million Product Categories

So if you're interested in saving money on your energy bills, you want modern products that work as well or better than before, and you appreciate when specs and claims have to be verified by third-party testing, look for the Energy Star logo when you shop.