Consumer Reports Finds Energy Star Rocky

Tougher Energy Star standards and improved rebate programs are among key moves that could make the United States an energy conservation leader. So says Consumer Reports after a investigation of U.S. energy practices and policies.

Energy Star was criticized last month by a Congressional committee, which called for a “a more robust” program emphasizing absolute rather than relative ratings. In its October 2010 issue, Consumer Reports says the problem is that too many products qualify for the label, rendering it virtually meaningless to consumers. “When more than 35 percent of all products sold in any category qualify for Energy Star,” the magazine’s report said, “that should signal that the technology and economies of scale have reached a point where achieving an Energy Star is too easy and that the bar needs to be raised.”

image via Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports surveyed some 1,500 Americans to learn more about their efforts to conserve energy—and save money while doing it. The magazine said it found much of the $11 billion in stimulus funds aimed at making homes and businesses more energy efficient “is being left on the table” because consumers don’t know about incentive programs, don’t understand them or feel the individual rewards are too small.

Still, the magazine said Americans are trying, noting that 44 percent have purchased an Energy Star appliance and 23 percent have upgraded their heating or cooling system. The report identified a number of cost-free ways to go further, including: driving slower and avoiding hard accelerations; programming the thermostat; putting dishes in the washer without a rinse; turning off devices when not in use; and washing clothes in cold water.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.