There’s good and then, of course, there’s better and best. And a new Energy Star program tries to bring home that point, touting select Energy Star products as “Most Efficient.” Qualified products “must demonstrate efficiency performance that is truly exceptional, inspirational, or leading edge,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which jointly administers the Energy Star program with the U.S. Department of Energy.
The EPA’s goal is to drive more energy-efficient products into the market faster and, after the pilot program ends on December 31, the agency will take a close look at the results and decide whether to make it permanent. For consumers, the Most Efficient designation means mid-to-large capacity washers, with a volume greater than 2.5 cubic feet, must use at least 50 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than the current Energy Star standard allows. The EPA estimates that about five percent of washers and five percent of refrigerators manufactured will be recognized as Most Efficient. The refrigerators must use at least 12.5 percent less energy than the least efficient Energy Star model of the same size and configuration.
The program also covers TVs, air-source heat pumps, central air conditioners, furnaces and geothermal heat pumps. Only Energy Star-qualified products can be considered, and an accredited lab approved by Energy Star must certify the energy-use testing. So far, several manufacturers have submitted products for recognition and, if approved, the EPA anticipates the Most Efficient designation will appear on in-store materials, product brochures, and websites in the next four to eight weeks. Manufacturers and retailers are not permitted to apply the Most Efficient designation to the appliance or packaging itself. The EPA plans to set up a website that shoppers can use to find the superstars.
Our Ratings of washers and refrigerators include efficiency scores, but also highlight product performance. For example, you’ll see washers in our Ratings that offer excellent water and energy efficiency, but were only so-so, or worse, in getting laundry clean.