As of Jan. 1, manufacturers were not allowed to ship washers bearing the Energy Star logo unless the machines meet the new, tougher standard. But washers already in stores and warehouses can keep their Energy Star, even if they don't meet the new standard. Since the logo doesn't have an effective date or expiration date, there's no way to know which standard a washer meets just by looking at it.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the Energy Star program with the Department of Energy, says that "the sell-through period for any remaining existing stock is brief." So the EPA doesn't seem to think it's a problem. But the agency wouldn't define brief, despite repeated requests. Nor is there any requirement that the older models be re-labeled.
Sears told us it will remove or cover the Energy Star logo on the EnergyGuide label of floor models that no longer meet the standard, about 10 machines. But there's little the retailer can do about the Energy Star logo that's embossed on some models. Lowe's and Home Depot said that their stores won't have any washers that meet only the old standard on their floors in 2011.
When our secret shopper visited local Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe's, P.C. Richard & Son, and Sears stores before we went to press in early January, none of the sales staff we spoke with was aware of the change in Energy Star standards for washers. A Sears manager had received a company e-mail but wasn't told to inform customers or sales staff.
To be sure that the model you're considering meets the new standard, use our Ratings (available to subscribers) or check the Energy Star website.