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Understanding Energy Efficiency Labels

The trend of going green is beginning to get out of hand. Nearly every product in the marketplace now has some sort of claim on being green or energy efficient. But how do you know if they really mean it? Knowing how to comprehend the information that’s on energy efficiency labels is essential for making smart consumer choices, especially in a buyer beware world.

Many appliances have an EnergyGuide label displayed somewhere on them with data calculated for that specific item by the U.S. Department of Energy. The two most important pieces of information on these labels are the annual amount of energy that device uses and the average amount of money that using that appliance will cost you in a year.

The amount of energy the appliance uses will be in kilowatt hours and underneath that figure you can see where that is in the range of kilowatt hours comparative appliances use. This gives you a nice comparison to see how efficient your washing machine, for example, is with reference to other washing machines. The smaller the number the better. As for the annual amount of money you’ll spend to run this appliance, that figure is based on a national average of utility costs.

The EnergyGuide label also specifies the features of the particular model bearing the label, such as the capacity of a washing machine or interior dimensions of a refrigerator.

The Energy Star label is one of the most widely known of energy efficiency ratings. It was formerly criticized by many because nearly 80 percent of all appliances and devices qualified for the privilege of having the Energy Star label. In 2007 the qualifications became more strict, allowing only the very most efficient appliances and electronics to bear the label—about 25 percent.

Presently the U.S. Department of Energy and EPA allow only appliances that incorporate energy efficient technology and utilize 10-50 percent less energy and water than standard models to bear the Energy Star label. There’s really no information available on the label itself, it’s just an indicator that the product which displays the label is deemed as energy efficient by the U.S. DOE and the EPA.

While several agencies and consumers still express some amount of dissatisfaction with the standards imposed by the EPA in order to qualify a product for the Energy Star label, the information on the EnergyGuide label is fairly sound and is a great indicator of a product’s performance compared to others in its class. Although not every product you may be in the market for will bear an energy efficient label, it’s always a good idea to find out as much about that product as you can and compare it with others in its category to make the best decision possible.

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