A report from the Government Accountability Office indicates that it may be a buyer beware situation with EnergyStar. Yes, you still have to do your homework.
I am happy that we have EnergyStar and WaterSense. I think that these labels are good for consumers who are trying to make wise decisions for their home. Lets face it, most people are not committed to an eco-lifestyle or building a green home. These are buzzwords that most consumers see as good things, but to really create a green lifestyle is more than buying and installing a product. We do see the benefits, so we do look for some sign that a product is green. These labels help.
I have always had an issue though with theses programs. The marketing always implied that buying EnergyStar ensured energy savings. I knew that sometimes the best products were not listed by that program. If you were careful in your research, you probably would have seen this mentioned in magazines reviewing some appliance.(A company has to apply for certification, but this was not always done). The other aspect had to do more with the consumer, but the idea was propogated by others: if everything was EnergyStar you would be alright. My issue: do you really need all of that equipment? We sold the concept of luxury and consumption, justifying it by saying it is energy efficient. With these thoughts in my mind, I read the summary about what the GAO discovered. I think that the following quote should be read:
GAO’s investigation shows that Energy Star is for the most part a self-certification program vulnerable to fraud and abuse. GAO obtained Energy Star certifications for 15 bogus products, including a gas-powered alarm clock. Two bogus products were rejected by the program and 3 did not receive a response. In addition, two of the bogus Energy Star firms developed by GAO received requests from real companies to purchase products because the bogus firms were listed as Energy Star partners.
At least two products were rejected. What happened to the other three? I think that an answer to that can be telling. The problem boils down to self-certification. The suggestion is to have third party verification/certification. I am not sure that is the answer, because an independent firm could fall victim to the same situation. We really need a process of checks that will ensure that a product meets a certain standard, and that could be done under the current system. I would also like to see better education on how homeowners should use their home, and this could be improved through these programs.
We will have to see how this develops. The report was released last month, and improvements could take time to implement. The other GAO report that I was following up on was about Title Insurance. That report was from 2007, and many changes did not take place till 2009- not all recommendations in that report were implemented. That leaves us, the buyers, to fend for ourselves, and make wise choices, which we should always be doing anyway.