ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency.
The ENERGY STAR program was established by EPA in 1992, under the authority of the Clean Air Act Section 103(g). Section103(g) of the Clean Air Act directs the Administrator to "conduct a basic engineering research and technology program to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate non–regulatory strategies and technologies for reducing air pollution." In 2005, Congress enacted the Energy Policy Act. Section 131 of the Act amends Section 324 (42 USC 6294) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, and "established at the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency a voluntary program to identify and promote energy–efficient products and buildings in order to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security, and reduce pollution through voluntary labeling of or other forms of communication about products and buildings that meet the highest energy efficiency standards."
Under EPA’s leadership, American consumers, businesses, and organizations have made investments in energy efficiency that are transforming the market for efficient products and practices, creating jobs, and stimulating the economy. Now in its 23rd year, the ENERGY STAR program has boosted the adoption of energy efficient products, practices, and services through valuable partnerships, objective measurement tools, and consumer education.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction
Significant opportunity for climate change mitigation exists from helping consumers and businesses save energy. Energy use in homes, buildings, and industry account for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States1. ENERGY STAR has been instrumental in reducing this energy use in order to realize significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions2 - contributing to important health and environmental benefits by addressing the challenges of climate change while strengthening our economy. ENERGY STAR benefits have grown steadily over time, nearly tripling in the last decade.
ENERGY STAR GHG Reductions Since 2000
GHG REDUCTIONS (MMTCO2e)
1 EPA’s INVENTORY OF U.S. GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND SINKS: 1990 – 2010 (PDF, 576KB), Table ES–3
2 Methods for estimating ENERGY STAR program GHG emissions reductions are described in the Office of Atmospheric Programs Climate Protection Partnerships: 2013 Annual Report.
Partnerships have been key to this success. Organizations from small school districts to large Fortune 500 companies have embraced the value of ENERGY STAR and made it their own. As of December 2013, families and businesses have realized estimated savings of more than $295 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the past two decades. The interplay of government, business, and market forces brought together through ENERGY STAR has changed the energy efficiency landscape.
To maintain consumer trust and improve the oversight of ENERGY STAR certified products, homes, and commercial facilities, EPA has implemented third–party certification requirements and testing.
- For Products: In order to earn the label, ENERGY STAR products must be third-party certified based on testing in EPA-recognized laboratories. In addition to up-front testing, a percentage of all ENERGY STAR products are subject to "off–the–shelf" verification testing each year. The goal of this testing is to ensure that changes or variations in the manufacturing process do not undermine a product's qualification with ENERGY STAR requirements.
- For New Homes: Verification of a home's energy efficiency by a third-party organization is mandatory for earning the ENERGY STAR label. There are two paths to certify a home to earn the ENERGY STAR. The Prescriptive Path is based on a predefined package of improvements, while the Performance Path is based on a customized package of upgrades. The National Program Requirements define the core energy efficiency specifications for both the Prescriptive and Performance Paths. See the National Program Requirements.
Both the Performance and Prescriptive Paths require completion of four inspection checklists:
• Thermal Enclosure System Rater Checklist
• HVAC System Quality Installation Rater Checklist
• HVAC System Quality Installation Contractor Checklist
• Water Management System Builder Checklist
These checklists include building science practices that promote improved comfort, indoor air quality, and durability in certified homes. The Inspection Checklists document contains the four checklists that every home certified under Version 3 must complete. See the Inspection Checklists (PDF, 858KB) (Revision 07).
- For Commercial Buildings: Buildings achieving a score of 75 or higher using Portfolio Manager must be verified by a Licensed Professional (Professional Engineer or Registered Architect) to be eligible to apply for the ENERGY STAR. The Licensed Professional must verify that all energy use is accounted for accurately, that the building characteristics have been properly reported (including the square footage of the building), that the building is fully functional in accordance with industry standards, and that each of the indoor environment criteria has been met.
- For Industrial Plants: A Professional Engineer must certify that the information used to calculate the plant‘s 75 or higher energy performance score is correct. In addition, the plant must satisfy EPA environmental compliance criteria screen.
The program’s emphasis on testing, third–party review, and compliance screening bolsters its integrity and ensures that consumers can trust ENERGY STAR certified products, homes, and commercial facilities to deliver the energy savings promised by the label.
Partnership and Market Impact
A broad range of 16,000 partners across every sector of the economy drive the ENERGY STAR program’s success—from manufacturers and trade associations, to retailers and efficiency program providers, to home builders and small businesses. ENERGY STAR has grown to represent products in more than 70 different categories, with more than 4.8 billion sold since 1992. More than 1.5 million new homes and more than 22,000 facilities proudly carry EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification, use dramatically less energy, and are responsible for substantially less greenhouse gas emissions than their peers.
EPA has evolved the ENERGY STAR program to serve as a national platform and a catalyst to deliver real energy efficiency by addressing market barriers –
Catalyzing greenhouse gas emission reductions among businesses and institutions.EPA introduced innovative performance benchmarks and a standardized measuring system based on actual energy use into the commercial and industrial market more than 10 years ago. In the largest U.S. building energy benchmarking data analysis to date, in 2012 EPA examined over 35,000 buildings that consistently used the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager measurement tool from 2008 to 2011. The buildings showed an average of 7% energy savings and 6% GHG emissions reductions over three years.
A record number of industrial sites committed to the ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry, and 247 met or exceeded their targets in 2013 by achieving a 10% reduction in energy intensity, saving 51 trillion Btu in energy. Further, the ENERGY STAR Energy Management Guidelines and energy performance tracking have become an industry best practice standard. State and local governments are leveraging the EPA tools to catalyze commercial and industrial markets toward reduction of energy waste through local mandates, incentive programs and competitions.
Increasing Efficiency.To move energy efficiency into the future, EPA continues to increase the stringency of ENERGY STAR performance specifications across all products, homes, buildings and plants. Today, an ENERGY STAR clothes washer uses about 70 percent less energy and 75 percent less water than a standard washer used 20 years ago.
In 2012, EPA completed the transition to new, more rigorous requirements for homes to earn the ENERGY STAR label. Homes certified under the new requirements are at least 15% more efficient than those built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and include additional energy–saving features to deliver a performance advantage of up to 30% compared to typical new homes.
Continuing Success through Partnerships.As a voluntary program, partnership is the driver for ENERGY STAR across all sectors. EPA promotes many types of partnerships, including youth partnerships. For the past few years, EPA's ENERGY STAR program has partnered with several youth organizations to reach families about the benefits of energy efficiency. Young people are not only receptive to the message of protecting the climate and willing to take action; they also influence their peers and families. EPA has worked with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Girls Scouts, and Do Something.org by providing these organizations important educational information and resources.
The ENERGY STAR label has grown into an incredibly valuable asset—to the environment, to consumers, and to the product manufacturers, home builders, and building owners and property managers who earn it. Today, 85 percent of Americans recognize the blue ENERGY STAR label. Of the households that knowingly purchased an ENERGY STAR certified product, about 75% credited the label as an important factor in their decision. The latest Good Housekeeping internal reader audit shows that at 92%, ENERGY STAR is now tied with Good Housekeeping in terms of brand influence.
Families and companies across America are improving the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses with help from ENERGY STAR in ways that cost less and help the environment. This success is possible because ENERGY STAR continues to deliver on its promise to America of cost–effective, relevant, and high–quality energy efficiency solutions. It’s a partnership that works.