Green isn't just a color anymore: these days, it's the lifestyle of choice. From cutting down on power, water and gas consumption to recycling and switching over to sustainable natural products, the goal of "living green" to preserve the environment has found its way into every aspect of our everyday lives.
The name ENERGY STAR® pops up as we shop for everything from kitchen appliances to computers to energy-efficient light bulbs. As a matter of fact, some houses are even labeled " ENERGY STAR®." While it's easy to think of ENERGY STAR® as a brand or manufacturer, that's not the case at all. ENERGY STAR® is a government-originated international standard that sets guidelines for — and approves — products designed to consume less energy.
Want to know more about what's behind the labels on your laptop and refrigerator? Read on for facts on how ENERGY STAR® was started and how it's grown to have such an impact on the way we live today.
- • The ENERGY STAR® program was launched by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992 with the intent to reduce power consumption and the production of greenhouse gases in power plants. The EPA’s Green Lights program that advocated for energy-efficient lighting in commercial and industrial buildings was introduced in 1991 and later absorbed into ENERGY STAR®. Federal agencies first started “going green” in 1993 with ENERGY STAR® qualified products, which expanded that same year to printers and fax machines. According to 2018 EPA figures, over six billion ENERGY STAR® products had been purchased since the program’s start. By 2020, ENERGY STAR® stated 5 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity had been saved by families and businesses within the United States, which translated to a reduction of greenhouse gas by 4 billion metric tons and $500 billion in energy costs.
- • Although ENERGY STAR® began in the United States, the program has international partners that include Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Taiwan. Prior partnerships and agreements with the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (representing Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway) have since expired.
- • The very first ENERGY STAR® labels were used on certain computer products to show that they consumed anywhere from 20-30% less electricity than similar products designed to more traditional federal standards.
- • By 1994, over 2,000 ENERGY STAR® qualified products were available to consumers.
- • In 1995, ENERGY STAR® made the jump from computers to a variety of other appliances and devices, residential heating and cooling systems. This was the same year that ENERGY STAR® launched its home program.
- • In 1996, some mortgage lenders began offering mortgages for ENERGY STAR®-certified homes.
- • Clothes washers received their own ENERGY STAR® category in 1997, with clothes dryers in 2015.
- • By 1998, refrigerators, freezer, dishwashers, TVs and VCRs had their own ENERGY STAR® product categories.
- • In order to qualify as an ENERGY STAR®-certified home, a house typically needs to include ENERGY STAR® appliances and lighting, proper insulation, high-efficiency windows, well-sealed construction and ductwork, plus energy-efficient heating and cooling.
- • By 2006, nearly 12% of new homes built in the United States had ENERGY STAR® certification. This was also the same year that battery charging systems earned their own category.
- • As of 2010, ENERGY STAR® ratings no longer applied to just power plants and homes; they were now also designated for public and commercial structures like schools, dormitories, hospitals, medical offices, municipal buildings (courthouses), banks, hotels, retail stores, warehouses and industrial facilities like wastewater treatment centers, cement plants, dairy and yogurt processing plants, food processing, automotive assembly factories, pharmaceutical plants and corn refineries. By that year, according to the EPA, the ENERGY STAR® label was recognized by over 80% of households in the United States.
- • In 2012, ENERGY STAR® Day was first celebrated nationwide. It has been marked each year with product promotions, rebates and various events throughout the country.
- • The category for light fixtures was added in 1997. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) were first labeled by ENERGY STAR® in 1999 for their energy-efficiency with the capabilities to last up to 10 times longer than regular incandescent lights and use an average of 75% less energy. By 2007, CFL sales had doubled — the same year that ENERGY STAR® coordinated its first “Change a Light” campaign national bus tour to 10 U.S. cities. Light-emitting diode or LED lighting has been in existence since 1927 but first qualified for ENERGY STAR® labeling in 2009 when it began gaining more traction as energy-efficient lighting. ENERGY STAR® LED lights reportedly use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 5 times longer than fluorescent types. In 2014, the ENERGY STAR® program recognized the milestone achievement of over 20 million LED bulbs sold through the ENERGY STAR® challenge for industry. In 2016, there was another call-to-action from the EPA to transition 300 million standard bulbs to LED that year, asserting it would save yearly on energy prices ($1.5 billion) and greenhouse gases (17 billion pounds). By 2019, some stores were reportedly selling LED lights at $1 each. According to ENERGY STAR®, certified bulbs save between 70 to 90% more energy than those without the certification. LEDs are said to last typically a dozen years (15 times longer) and save $55 in costs over the lifetime of a bulb.
- • By 2016, over 40% of Fortune 500 companies had forged partnerships with the EPA and ENERGY STAR® for energy and fiscal savings. A year later, there were over 30,000 commercial properties that had been ENERGY STAR®-certified. Coffee makers and connected thermostats were two of several categories unveiled that year.
- • In 2020, ENERGY STAR® introduced its resource for certified electric vehicles (EV) and chargers. EV chargers had been created as a category in 2016.
- • By 2021, there were more than 1 million ENERGY STAR® retrofitted homes and the first smart home energy management system was certified.
- • ENERGY STAR® standards are regularly updated (often on a yearly basis) on the program’s website.
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