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Energy Star Products: Worth It?

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Energy Star products come with an ingenious sales pitch – save the environment and save money at the same time. But, according to Consumer Reports Home & Yard Editor Bob Markovich, the Energy Star program needs a serious makeover.

While it’s inherently a good idea, Energy Star is systemically broken, he says. The tests are wildly out of date, manufacturers are now allowed to do their own testing without independent verifiers and the standards have become lax -- so lax that until recently, more than 90% of dishwashers qualified for the Energy Star sticker. Now the standards have tightened so it's down to about 50%, but there's still a long way to go. Energy Star appliances will save you money, Markovich says, just not as much as advertised.

EnergyGuide stickers, which come on appliances like refrigerators and stoves, are also often unreliable. What the company considers to be the item’s true capacity usually accounts for unusable space and the estimated amount of pay a year for electricity on the appliance? Sometimes understated by nearly half, says Markovich.

Markovich suggests people continue to buy Energy Star appliances but also look at products’ efficiency standards realistically. For instance, refrigerators with bottom or top freezers are far more energy efficient than the popular “French door” versions, and could save you as much as $70 a month in electricity. And front loading washing machines are a better bet than top loaders, Markovich says, as they use less water and even make clothes drier – so they spend less time in the dryer and save you even more in electricity bills.

Read more on the Consumer Reports Home & Garden Blog here.