As the economy sinks even further into the tank and energy prices continue to climb, people around the United States are struggling for ways to save energy in their homes. EnergyStarÃ?Â® compliant appliances and heating and cooling systems are one of the many avenues people are researching – but what exactly is EnergyStarÃ?Â®, and what can it mean for you?
EnergyStarÃ?Â® is a joint project administered by the U.S. Department of Energy working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency. The program was established in 1992 to help protect the environment through the creation of standards for energy use. Through a partnership with over 12,000 public and private organizations, EnergyStarÃ?Â® works to create ever-more stringent energy usage limitations on a variety of products.
EnergyStarÃ?Â® is a voluntary program for manufacturers, in which they agree to meet or exceed the energy usage guidelines for the products they make. Their products are subjected to rigorous third-party testing procedures before they are permitted to register the product with the Department of Energy and be permitted to use the EnergyStarÃ?Â® logo on their product.
Products included in the EnergyStarÃ?Â® program are numerous and varied. Everything from hot water heaters, to furnaces, to dishwashers, to air-conditioning systems have a set of guidelines for them to bear the EnergyStarÃ?Â® symbol. Even buildings can achieve an EnergyStarÃ?Â® compliance certificate.
EnergyStarÃ?Â® is not a static program, but is a vibrant and ever-changing set of rules and guidelines, with ever more-robust standards being set for products to be allowed to bear the EnergyStarÃ?Â® logo. In 2008, the EnergyStarÃ?Â® program updated guidelines for televisions and hot water heaters.
A fairly new program for EnergyStarÃ?Â® is its Home Energy Audit program, with the Department of Energy certifying contractors and auditors around the country who meet their guidelines. You can find out if any contractors in your local area meet the Department’s standards by visiting DOE’s website.
The Department of Energy stresses that homeowners not run out and start replacing individual appliances and start up home improvement projects until the homeowner has taken a “whole house” approach in auditing their energy usage. DOE does recommend that homeowners look at four critical components around their homes.
1) Seal any air leaks to the outside, such as around doors and windows, and adding insulation to exterior walls and the attic;
2) Seal your ductwork so that the warm and cool air is actually being directed to the rooms in your house, and not into the crawlspace and/or attic;
3) If your heating or air conditioning system is more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing it, because the energy efficiency of modern models may more than pay for themselves in a short time; and,
4) Check the energy efficiency of your appliances, and replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, which may account for as much as 30% of your annual energy bills.
More information on the EnergyStarÃ?Â® program can be obtained by visiting their web site at http://www.energystar.gov