The appliance industry is facing significant changes in the ENERGY STAR® program. These relate not just to how the ENERGY STAR mark may be used, but also to providing measurements of what the mark actually means for consumers in everyday situations. Manufacturers and private label resellers need to understand and implement these changes in a short timeframe.
To begin with, the ENERGY STAR label, which showcases the most energy efficient appliances, has recently transformed from a manufacturer self-declared label to a label that requires the world's most demanding regulatory compliance systems. Generally speaking, existing products manufactured before December 31, 2010 may still use the ENERGY STAR mark. Products manufactured after December 31, 2010, and subject to specification changes, will have to be tested by an EPA-recognized laboratory (or under witness or supervised testing programs in concert with an EPA-recognized Certification Body).
Furthermore, the ENERGY STAR program is evolving in some cases toward more accurate energy efficiency measurements that will allow consumers to make better-informed choices. Residential clothes washers and dishwashers provide a good case in point.
A Special Case: Residential Clothes Washers and Dishwashers
Among appliance categories, residential clothes washers and residential dishwashers present some unusual challenges. These appliances have complex operating cycles, and acceptable performance is based not only on how efficiently a machine uses electrical energy during operation, but also on the cleaning results it actually delivers. So the ENERGY STAR label that is sought after by consumers could be considered meaningless without corresponding product performance measurements.
Three Performance Measures for Residential Clothes Washers
The energy efficiency and water efficiency of a residential clothes washer is presently measured and regulated by annual energy consumption, modified energy factor (MEF) and water factor (WF).
Annual energy consumption is calculated in kWh per year (kWh/year) and is a measure of the electrical energy and hot water energy consumed by a clothes washer.
Modified energy factor, (MEF) expressed as cubic feet per kilowatt-hour per cycle (ft3/kWh/cycle), is the quotient of the cubic foot capacity of the clothes washer container divided by the total clothes washer energy consumption per cycle. Energy consumption is measured as the sum of the machine electrical energy consumption, the hot water energy consumption, and the energy required for removal of the remaining moisture in the test cloth. The higher the MEF value, the more efficient the clothes washer. Beginning on January 1, 2011, clothes washers must have an MEF of 2.0 or greater to qualify to use the ENERGY STAR mark.
Water factor (WF), expressed as gallons per cycle per cubic feet, is the quotient of the total weighted per-cycle water consumption divided by the capacity of the clothes washer. The lower the value, the more efficient the clothes washer. Beginning on January 1, 2011, clothes washers must have a WF of 6.0 or lower to qualify to use the ENERGY STAR mark.
However, these three values depend on operating settings used in standard energy efficiency tests. And they don't account for consumer-selectable variables that contribute to the true wash performance of a clothes washer. These include wash cycle times, wash temperature, detergent performance, and rinsing performance. Consumers don't currently have an apples-to-apples method to compare the true efficiency of washing machines under variable operating conditions. Consequently, a clothes washer that scores high on standard efficiency tests might actually be a less efficient choice if, for example, a consumer operates the machine at the “Heavy Load” setting instead of the “Normal” wash setting.
Similar Issues for Residential Dishwashers
Residential dishwashers present a similar problem. The energy efficiency of residential dishwashers is presently measured and regulated by annual energy consumption, energy factor and water consumption. Annual energy consumption is calculated in kWh per year (kWh/year) and is a measure of the electrical energy and hot water energy consumed by a dishwasher. The Energy Factor (EF) expresses the number of cycles that can be powered with one kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy. The greater the EF, the more efficient the dishwasher. Since August 11, 2009, standard size dishwashers must have an annual energy consumption ≤ 324 kWh/year and a water consumption ≤ 5.8 gallons per cycle to qualify to use the ENERGY STAR mark.
These two values (annual energy and water consumption) are very dependent on the wash performance and drying performance of any given dishwasher. Again, consumer selectable variables such as wash cycle times, wash temperature, detergent performance, and dish drying settings can greatly impact the energy efficiency of a dishwasher. And just as for clothes washers, consumers don't have an apples-to-apples method to compare the true efficiency of dishwashers under variable operating conditions.
Introduction of Wash Performance Metrics to Allow Better-Informed Comparisons
Most likely by 2013, consumers will be able to make more informed choices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be amending their ENERGY STAR specifications for residential dishwashers, to include wash performance metrics. These wash performance metrics may be based on test procedures outlined in the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers Standard DW-1-2009. As a result, consumers will be able to compare the energy efficiency of products with comparable wash performance.
For residential clothes washers, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and EPA will most likely develop and include wash performance metrics, for these products as well. These metrics will also allow consumers to compare the energy efficiency of clothes washers with comparable wash performance.
Qualified Partners Can Speed and Simplify Testing
Appliance manufacturers are now required to use testing laboratories recognized by the EPA as qualified to perform ENERGY STAR testing. As an alternative, manufacturers may perform the testing themselves under the witness or supervised testing programs of an EPA recognized Certification Body. While the new regulations would appear to impose greater cost and time demands on manufacturers seeking to validate new or redesigned products, third-party organizations can often make the testing process faster and less costly. Additional savings may be possible by bundling ENERGY STAR compliance testing with product safety testing already performed by testing and certification laboratories.
For more information about the enhanced ENERGY STAR program, visit http://www.csa-international.org/product_areas/energy_efficiency/.