Here comes ENERGY STAR certification

The rules of the game for Energy Star changed on January 1. Now products bearing the Energy Star designation need certification from third-party labs.

New third-party certification procedures now require manufacturers seeking use of the Energy Star label to conduct testing in EPA-approved and accredited laboratories. But what happens when a company cannot rise to meet the newest Energy Star certification procedures enforced by EPA?

Energy Star has earned its place as a leader in energy efficiency verification throughout the U.S. Having just gone through the biggest transformation in its history, the voluntary program now has all of the qualities of the world's most demanding regulatory compliance systems. No longer will EPA regulators accept manufacturer self-declaration. Instead, products are now subject to third-party testing and certification which could result in some growing pains for manufacturers during the initial phase.

Products can still make it to market without the Energy Star label. However, many marketers still look for the Energy Star qualification because it not only raises the value of the product, but also delivers a message of validation to consumers. As any product evolves, this validation will remain the constant stamp of market approval that will continue to ensure high-value with consumers. So there is a lot of incentive to comply with Energy Star guidelines. However, “compliance” is a strong word, considering the voluntary nature of the Energy Star program.

There are specific terms that are important in the new certifications procedures associated with Energy Star. One is “Key Certification.” Key Certification simply means obtaining the approvals needed to sell products globally. With regard to energy efficiency, it refers to the right to mark products with the Energy Star logo. This marking proves that products meet the federally mandated minimum energy efficiency requirements - and much more. An Energy Star-qualified product not only meets federally established minimum efficiency requirements, it also exceeds them by at least 10%.

The role of certification

It used to be that manufacturers could claim Energy Star status simply by declaring that their products met the standard. The new guidelines dictate that manufacturing partners must show compliance with the requirements of the program by submitting all Energy Star products to some form of third-party, independently-supervised laboratory testing and having products certified through a third-party Certification Body (CB). Additionally, laboratories must be EPA-recognized either by accreditation to ISO 17025 or by participating in a third party certification body's Data Acceptance Program (DAP). Simply stated, EPA has reassigned the responsibility for certifying and verifying Energy Star products.

Manufacturers can still meet all the requirements of the new Energy Star Third Party Certification process. For manufacturers that currently have Energy Star qualified products listed with the EPA must reaffirm their commitment with the EPA. Manufacturers that wish to participate in the Energy Star program in 2011 must sign the newly modified Energy Star partner agreement. Signing this agreement shows a manufacturer's intent to comply with the new certification and verification program requirements. Energy Star products will keep their qualified status if agreements were in place before the start of 2011.

No question that the new requirements for Energy Star depart from past practices. An experienced certification body can help manage the process and speed things along. For example, Intertek is a third-party CB and provides 24-hour certification once testing parameters are met. The implications of this speedy turn-around for time-to-market demands are obvious. Also, for those companies that already have the Energy Star designation, the CB can submit a list of products for annual Energy Star verification testing by March 30, 2011 to get the designation this year with a seamless transition.

In general, it is best to work with CBs that handle not just Energy Star testing, but also can provide access to energy efficiency compliance organizations outside the U.S. such as Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), Europe's Energy related Products (ErP) Directive, EcoLabel, and the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization. There is enormous potential for reducing the duplication of testing, inspection and certification in areas of the world with similar (yet diversely created) energy efficiency requirements.

Manufacturers that want to determine what products must be Energy Star-qualified should consult the product-specific partner commitments and product criteria documents that the EPA publishes. The accompanying table provides a list of currently qualified Energy Star product types by product category. The product types which have been grayed-out are currently in development.



Appliances Lighting Home Electronics Information Technology
Clothes Washers Decorative Light Strings Audio/Video Equipment Computers
Dishwashers Luminaires (including sub-components) Set-top Boxes & Cable Boxes Displays
Refrigerators /Freezers Lamps Telephony Imaging Equipment
Water Coolers Televisions Computer Servers
Battery Charging Systems Enterprise Storage
Uninterruptible Power Supplies
Small Network Equipment
Commercial Food Service Home and Building Envelope Commercial Appliances Heating & Cooling Products (HVAC)
Commercial Dishwashers Roof Products New Refrigerated Beverage Vending Machines Boilers, Furnaces
Commercial Fryers Water Heater, Gas Condensing Rebuilt Refrigerated Beverage Vending Machines Central Air Conditioning
Commercial Griddles Water Heater, Heat Pump Lab-grade Refrigerators/Freezers Dehumidifiers
Commercial Hot Food Holding Cabinets Water Heater, High Efficiency Gas Storage Heat Pumps (Air-Source, Geothermal)
Commercial Ice Machines Water Heater, Solar Light Commercial HVAC
Commercial Ovens Water Heater, Whole Home Gas Tankless Residential Fans, Ceiling and Ventilating
Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers Residential Water Heaters
Commercial Steam Cookers Room Air Cleaners / Purifiers
Pre-Rinse Spray Valves Room Air Conditioners
Climate Controls
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