The blue ENERGY STAR® label, which is given to appliances and other products that meet certain energy use requirements, is a familiar sight to consumers shopping for energy-efficient appliances. While becoming an ENERGY STAR partner is voluntary for product manufacturers, the program's popularity with retailers and consumers in effect has made it mandatory for appliance manufacturers.
The ENERGY STAR program for home appliances started at the Department of Energy in 1996. This made sense, as ENERGY STAR sets efficiency requirements for products that are levels above the DOE mandatory minimum efficiency standards and uses test procedures developed by DOE. For major appliances, the DOE test procedure and minimum standards are the foundation upon which ENERGY STAR builds.
Management of the ENERGY STAR program for appliances changed in 2009, when a memorandum of understanding between EPA and DOE transferred the administration of the program from DOE to EPA, which had no previous experience regulating appliances.
DOE remains the federal government expert agency on appliance products due to the appliance standards program. While EPA has played a significant role in marketing the Energy Star® brand, it has no expertise in appliance test procedures or the technical analysis that develops a minimum federal standard.
AHAM believes ENERGY STAR program should be transferred back to DOE where it can be administered as an energy efficiency program and again more closely coordinated with the standards program. DOE, with the expertise it has gained from regulating home appliances, is best suited to administer the program for home appliances to help the consumer and manufacturers.