EPA Energy Star Update

Posted by Amanda Stevens on August 25, 2011
EPA Energy Star Update

The EPA is currently revising the ENERGY STAR eligibility requirements for a variety of home appliances including refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers, and room air conditioners.  As part of these updates, EPA is working closely with appliance manufacturers on how the ENERGY STAR program can help advance the market for smart grid enabled products in ways that deliver benefits to the consumer, as well as long-term system benefits to the electric power grid.  

EPA completed its review of residential dishwasher eligibility requirements this past spring.  Beginning January 20, 2012, standard-sized and compact dishwashers meeting the new ENERGY STAR requirements will be 10 and 30 percent, respectively, more energy efficient than standard models.

EPA has proposed a number of changes to the current ENERGY STAR room air conditioner requirements that include strengthening the minimum Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) level from 10% to 15% above the minimum federal standard. EPA is also considering new requirements encouraging the implementation of additional intelligent energy-savings features for qualified products, such as a requirement that ENERGY STAR room air conditioners operate, by default, in “Energy Saver Mode” and that qualified units provide visual notification to remind consumers when the air filter should be checked, cleaned or replaced. These new program requirements, when finalized, are anticipated to be effective in October 2012.

In July 2011, EPA launched a process to begin revising the ENERGY STAR requirements for refrigerators and freezers and is working closely with stakeholders to consider if there are new ways for the program to better distinguish, for consumers, the best choices in terms of energy performance, energy cost and environmental impact. For example, EPA is looking at new approaches that would identify the most energy efficient models regardless of configuration (i.e., top freezer, bottom freezer, side-by-sides). 

As part of these revisions to the ENERGY STAR appliance requirements, EPA is evaluating how best to address new and emerging smart grid technology into the variety of categories it covers through the ENERGY STAR program.  At a basic level, a smart grid enabled product is one that has the capability to serve as a new energy resource for the electric grid, by reducing or delaying its operation in response to signals communicated from a utility or third-party service operator.  

In the future, with permission from consumers, utilities could make small adjustments in how a product is operating that saves money for consumers and adds up to big benefit for the electric grid as a whole. More broadly speaking, this new communication capability, that enables grid connectivity, can provide consumers with new features and functionalities that enable them to, for instance, receive feedback on individual appliances’ energy use, remotely operate/schedule an appliance from their mobile device or the Internet, and utilize time-saving remote diagnostic functionality in lieu of a traditional service call on a malfunctioning appliance.

EPA is currently weighing several approaches that could help advance this nascent smart grid technology, including a small allowance towards the ENERGY STAR levels and extra recognition for smart grid functionality – for example, designating certain models as Smart Grid Capable on the ENERGY STAR qualified product lists.


Amanda Stevens is a part of EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program.

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