Unless you have been living under a rock, you have almost surely heard of a program called Energy Star. A recent industry publication cited a statistic that as of 2016, 91% of US households recognize the Energy Star label. Beyond mere recognition however, what is Energy Star and how does it work? Energy Star is a program established by the EPA in 1992, and it sets energy efficiency standards for appliances, electronics, houses and buildings. It’s not a regulation however, as businesses decide on their own whether or not to design products that comply with the standards. So, what’s my point? Early reports indicate that the 2018 budget of the Trump administration may reduce the EPA’s budget by 31%, eliminating nearly 4000 jobs. One of the programs rumored to be cut as part of this reduction is the Energy Star program. Is that a good idea?
There is much agreement that the rate and volume of rule promulgation by the EPA in recent years has added cost and questionable benefit for consumers as regards the development of HVAC equipment. Energy Star is different however. Instead of compelling business to adopt specific energy efficiency standards, it seeks to encourage by promising recognition and consumer support. The theory is that consumers seeking to purchase energy efficient products will rely on labels such as Energy Star to help guide their choices. According to Energy Star, the program has been extremely successful. They report that since its inception, Energy Star has helped families and businesses save $362 billion on utility bills while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.4 billion metric tons. In addition, about 1.8 million Energy Star certified new homes have been built. What do HVAC companies have to say about all this?
Two HVAC contractors recently interviewed by the ACH & R News didn’t believe that their businesses would be hurt much if the program was to go away. On the other hand, one felt its disappearance would negatively impact the HVACR industry. Steve Lauten of Total Air and Heat in Plano said, “It gives incentives to provide air-conditioning systems that deliver installed efficiencies versus rated efficiencies… particularly in residential and new home construction. Energy Star means the duct system is sized and sealed like it should be and it means that equipment is checked out and charged like it should be. Energy Star provides some level of confidence for consumers and ensures they are making good decisions.” Conversations with contractors in the article seemed to imply that the more your company talks to the consumer in terms of total building efficiency and installed versus rated efficiency, the less they might be impacted by the elimination of this program. For the tens of thousands of contractors however who sell on the basis of rated efficiency and labels like Energy Star, the programs elimination could prove harmful. What about manufacturers? According to the article, a recent Associated Press report stated that more than 1000 US companies, including United Technologies and Ingersoll-Rand have urged government officials to preserve the program, stating it should be strengthened, not weakened, to encourage energy conservation. One of the contractors in the article summed up his feelings this way. “Cutting out something like Energy Star simply to save money is not doing the right thing for the country.”
Information cited from May 15, 2017 ACH R news and March 23 Washington Post