Energy Star is an energy rating system run by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Energy Star has designated certain minimum standards of energy efficiency that various appliances and equipment must meet to qualify as Energy Star compliant. When a product tests within these standards it is awarded an Energy Star rating, which means that the product meets certain standards for using electricity wisely, based on that appliance class.
The Energy Star rating carries with it a certain prominence as many consumers prefer to purchase Energy Star certified products over those which are not. In this way consumers know that they will have lower energy costs and be more environmentally responsible. It is important to note, however, that Energy Star does not change versions across the board. This means that their television certifications could be in version 5.0 at the same time that home energy systems are moving to 3.0. Let’s look at some examples of Energy Star Versions and what 3.0 means.
Moving to Energy Star Version 3.0 For the past three years or so Energy Star has been migrating to a new standard of efficiency, called Energy Star 3.0 – in some categories. This means that Energy Star has been making their energy efficient standards more rigorous, requiring electronics and appliances to make even better use of energy and become even more energy saving.
Energy Star considers a new version to their rating when a few criteria are met, but the biggest determining factor is when at least half of the available products in a specific category are qualifying for an Energy Star rating. So, if there are 4,000 different models of TV sold in the U.S., and 2,000 now qualify for the Energy Star rating, the organization will re-evaluate their rating and tighten the standards.
Some products are currently in version 3.0, while others are in 4.0. Energy Star 3.0 has been rolled out slowly, in one product group at a time, while other products are further along. Let’s look at a few of the products and how Energy Star version 3.0 differs from the previous Energy Star rating and what current version various products are in.
Televisions Energy Star rolled out version 3.0 for TVs in late 2008. Prior to this upgraded version Energy Star only tested televisions in the “plugged in but turned off” mode. In short, they were checking to see how much wattage a television used when not in use. Surprised that it used any, are you? Well, most electronics are considered “vampires” in that they do actually draw power even when not turned on. This is why many green websites recommend plugging your electronics into a power strip that has an off switch, then switching that off when not in use – it is the only way to truly prevent any power drain. But back to Energy Star; with version 3.0 TVs will be tested in the “on” state as well. This new rating does have limitations, in that it only requires a TV to maintain a certain wattage in the default picture mode (that is a picture mode with lower brightness and color). Once a person tweaks their HDTV settings to look the best, the power load could more than double.
It is important to note that TV certifications have actually moved beyond the major change of 3.0 now. Version 4.0 was released in 2010, and version 5.0 is coming in 2012. The biggest change will be that every model must be qualified every year, whereas previously once a model was qualified it was good for the life of that model.
Geothermal Heat Pumps Geothermal heat pumps migrated to version 3.0 in late 2009, which is where they remain today. This upgraded version was made at the same time as a tax credit was developed to give a home owner back 30% of the cost of their Energy Star certified heat pump. In January 2012, there is an updated “tier” of version 3.0, that tightens the requirements for certification just a bit more, ensuring that Energy Star rated geothermal heat pumps are at last 45% more efficient than non certified heat pumps.
Energy Star for Homes Energy Star also certifies homes as energy efficient. Version 3.0 of Energy Star for homes goes live in January 2012. This certification looks at a variety of energy use factors in a home including HVAC energy consumption and water management. The updated 3.0 rating will ensure that homes certified as Energy Star compliant after January 1st, 2012 are at least 45% more efficient than homes that do not qualify for the certification.