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EPA, DOE Toughen Energy Star Testing, Enforcement

TVIn an effort to ensure that manufacturers of Energy Star qualified products comply to their energy-efficiency standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are strengthening its Energy Star program with a two-step process that will expand testing of Energy Star qualified products. This is in addition to its third-party testing already underway.

Aimed at improving the energy efficiency of homes and appliances, the DOE has started to test some of the most commonly used appliances, which account for more than 25 percent of a household’s energy bill, and both agencies are now developing a system to test all products that earn the Energy Star label.

The announcement follows criticism that the Energy Star qualified products don’t perform as claimed and as consumers start to trade-in their old appliances under the federal government’s “cash for appliances” rebate program, reports USA Today.

Energy Star products have helped consumers save nearly $17 billion on their utility bills and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to emissions from 30 million cars in 2009, according to the agencies.

The two-step process includes the DOE’s testing on six of the most common product types: freezers, refrigerator-freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters and room air conditioners. DOE will test approximately 200 basic models at third-party, independent test laboratories over the next few months.

The new process also requires all products seeking the Energy Star label to be tested in approved labs and manufacturers to participate in an ongoing verification testing program.

The DOE’s enforcement team will also randomly review manufacturers’ compliance with DOE certification requirements and pursue any violations. The agency’s enforcement efforts last December yielded energy use reports from 160 different manufacturers, covering more than 600,000 residential products.

The agencies have taken action against 35 manufacturers in the past four months to ensure their compliance with both Energy Star and DOE’s appliance efficiency standards. For example, in December last year they took steps to remove the Energy Star label from 20 LG refrigerator-freezer models that multiple independent labs confirmed were consuming more energy than allowed under the Energy Star criteria.

In January, the DOE signed a consent decree with Haier on four of its freezer models — including two Energy Star models — that were consuming more energy than reported. As part of the agreement with the department, Haier is required to notify all affected consumers, repair any defective units and pay $150,000 a voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury.

The EPA also terminated US Inc/US Refrigeration’s partnership with Energy Star based on a history of logo misuse, unresponsiveness, and pattern of failure to comply with Energy Star program guidelines.

Despite recent actions by the DOE, non-compliance with Energy Star standards has been minimal. EPA says a spot check of the program in 2009 by the Inspector General — testing 60 Energy Star products — only yielded one failure. The printer product failed on one of three tests — not entering sleep mode fast enough.

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