EPA, DOE Look to Strengthen Energy Star Brand

March 19, 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy today outlined a series of steps to further strengthen the Energy Star program and boost confidence in the Energy Star brand. The action covers products across the board and is not specifically targeted at windows, doors and skylights in the program.

Officials note that in addition to third-party testing already underway, EPA and DOE have launched a new two-step process to expand testing of Energy Star-qualified products. This week, DOE began testing of some of the most commonly used appliances, said to account for more than 25 percent of a household's energy bill. As part of an overall effort by the Obama Administration to improve the energy efficiency of homes and appliances to save families money, both agencies are now developing a system to test all products that earn the Energy Star label.

Speaking earlier this week at the WDMA spring meeting, the EPA's Douglas Anderson, who is now responsible for the Energy Star windows, doors and skylights program, indicated that the government would be announcing stepped-up testing and enforcement requirements for Energy Star products. He noted, however, that the government views the rating, testing and certifying processes used by the National Fenestration Rating Council as fairly rigorous.  

In addition expanded testing, the EPA and DOE announcement noted enhanced enforcement efforts in recent months to ensure compliance with both Energy Star and DOE's appliance efficiency standards, including taking action against 35 manufacturers in the past four months.

The initiative can be traced in part to recent media reports questioning the Energy Star program.  Violations of the Energy Star label tend to get big media attention, which is good—because it provides a strong disincentive for companies to skirt the system and risk a wave of negative coverage about their product, government officials note. At the same time, consumers should be aware that in the past few years, the number of violations has been quite small, especially given that more than 40,000 individual products carry the Energy Star label.

Last year, the EPA's independent Inspector General conducted a "spot check" of the program, testing 60 Energy Star products. Fifty-nine of the 60 products met or exceeded the Energy Star requirements, it is noted.