Are Energy Star Labels on Appliances Legit?


If you’ve wandered through the aisles of an appliance store lately, it’s hard to miss the labels proclaiming the newest line of behemoth refrigerators or three-tier convection ovens are “eco-friendly.” But are they, really? Let’s take a quick tour of appliance labels and separate what’s useful from what’s just marketing-speak.

You know those bright yellow Energy Star stickers on the front of new home appliances? That’s the brainchild of the Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They’re designed to clue you in on how much your new dishwasher or washing machine will cost to operate over the course of the year as well as help you estimate how much electricity it sucks up. The Energy Star logo means the appliance is deemed better for the environment – and uses less energy – than standard models.

Sounds awesome, right? Just go to the store, find the product with the lowest operating and electricity consumption costs and take it home. Not so fast. The problem is that it’s up to appliance manufacturers to determine whether their products are “better” than other standard models. Now, we’re not suggesting that manufacturers intentionally mislead consumers with the Energy Star labels they slap on the products they sell, but independent verification is always a good thing.

The next time you’re out shopping for a home appliance, look for additional labels or published information from third-party verification organizations like Intertek. When this independent product testing company confirms a clothes dryer or icebox meets multiple environmental regulations, it certifies the product with a Green Leaf Mark so consumers know the manufacturers energy-efficiency claims line up with reality.

Consumer Reports suggests manufacturers take eco-label transparency a step further:

All certification standards should be developed with input from multiple stakeholders including consumers, industry, environmentalists and social representatives in a way that doesn’t compromise the independence of the certifier. For example, industry representatives can play an important advisory role without having direct financial, decision making or management ties to the certifier.

Bottom line? The next time you’re in the market for a new washer/dryer combo, make sure you look for more than just the Energy Star certification so you don’t get taken to the cleaners.

Image: Tom Raftery