“When life hands you a lemon, squeeze it and make lemonade.”
– W. Clement Stone
When you’re shopping, look for the bright yellow “ENERGY STAR” label. This easy-to-spot label is your assurance that you’re looking at a Department of Energy/Environmental Protection Agency-approved and endorsed home appliance that will save you considerable money in utility bills as you save energy. ENERGY STAR appliances actually use less water and electricity to do the same job. These appliances are made of technologically superior, higher quality materials than many of their competitors. That’s one primary reason why you may pay more up front for these products, although that’s not a general assumption you can make. The EPA and Department of Energy (DOE) maintain that the vast majority of ENERGY STAR products — including VCRs, televisions, computers, printers and more — do not cost consumers any more than their less energy-efficient counterparts. ENERGY STAR-labeled heating and cooling appliances, however, are likely to run you more up front. The annual savings you’ll enjoy for those products, however, have been estimated as much as 15 percent to 40 percent, so your investment in such products is a wise one. The EPA and DOE estimate that ENERGY STAR products can save you as much as $400 each year in utility bills.
You’ll find ENERGY STAR labels on the most commonly purchased home appliances: refrigerators, lighting, computers, televisions, clothes washers, dishwashers and air conditioning units. You’ll even spot them on some new homes. The label is considered a selling point in the new construction residential market. (Other home appliances, including clothes dryers, water heaters and microwaves, have not yet been stamped with ENERGY STAR labels; however, the United States Department of Energy offers tips on its own Web site for making energy-efficient selections when purchasing those products.) More than 3,400 ENERGY STAR-labeled products among 25 product categories are currently on the market.
Appliances earn the ENERGY STAR label by meeting minimum standards established by the government. The appliances have been subjected to tests to determine their degree of energy efficiency, and those that successfully meet those standards will receive an ENERGY STAR rating. Some appliances will exceed minimum standards more so than other products; it depends upon the product and the availability of technology. Collectively, all ENERGY STAR products utilize the most advanced technology available today.
While you might be skeptical over your ability to reap long-term savings from ENERGY STAR appliances, study that yellow label more closely. The label posts two prices: not only the cost of the appliance itself, but also the cost of operating the appliance each month for as long as you own the appliance. You’re probably going to see on these yellow labels monthly rates lower than you might expect. So any additional cost that you face up front for purchasing an ENERGY STAR appliance will be more than compensated later in terms of your monthly savings. If that appliance across the showroom floor is tempting you — a lower-priced dishwasher without an ENERGY STAR label — you might be surprised how much you’re going to pay to operate it each month. Unfortunately, that’s a monthly charge you’re not going to see posted on the product. Ignorance is bliss … until you receive your first utility bill. And speaking of utilities, call your local utility provider to find out if they offer rebates for ENERGY STAR appliances; many of them do.
It appears that national consumer awareness of the importance of energy-efficient products is growing. A recent survey conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that consumers do recognize the ENERGY STAR label and are making purchases based on the presence of that label. Some 80 percent of the consumers who responded to the survey said they recognized the ENERGY STAR label, and 43 percent said the presence of the label influenced their purchasing decision. Approximately 94 percent of respondents said they firmly believed that ENERGY STAR products cut back on energy consumption, and another 82 percent said they believed such products helped protect the environment.
Perhaps not surprising was the survey’s finding that the most commonly purchased ENERGY STAR product among the national consumer base was the home computer, followed by refrigerators, computer monitors and washing machines.