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Energy Star – the government making a mockery of itself?

Oh the Humanity!!

Air Purifier Certified by Energy StarApparently,  there is such thing as the  Government Accountability Office (GAO) and according to this NY Times Article the GAO recently audited Energy Star’s certification process with some pretty,  ahem… embarrassing results.

Among the bogus products that received the supposedly prestigious distinction were a “gasoline-powered alarm clock” and an air purifier which was nothing more than an electric heater with a feather duster glued to the front of it.

In all, 15 products out of 20 bogus applications were approved and 2 out of the 3 fake businesses were accepted and listed as “partners” on the website.  Some of these products would have been eligible for federal tax credits and state rebates and one of these bogus companies was contacted by consumers to do work.

So, I asked myself?

Why in the heck would the government go to all that trouble to make a mockery of itself?  I guess they wanted to make a strong statement to themselves and make it they did.  In all seriousness, the rumblings have been going on for a while that the certification process has become more and more lax over the years.  I actually think one non- profit reported getting their cat certified which I didn’t believe at the time but now I’ve got to wonder.

The two glaring issues (besides the fact that human beings must not be processing these applications) the GAO’s report illustrated so effectively is that it’s hugely likely that companies can/will defraud and mislead if they can conduct their own studies on efficiency and submit that with their product application.  Independent verification from approved labs? – what a novel idea..

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The second issue is that once a  company “vouches” for themselves and becomes a partner, they have complete access to all of Energy Star’s promotional pieces and logos and well we all know American businesses work diligently to be transparent and honest in their marketing.   Right…

Cut to the chase – why should I care?

Besides feeding the growing skeptical nature of our culture , there are some things to take away from this report.  First of all, a builder can’t take a picture of his cat and  get his   Home Certified Energy Star.  There actually is an independent verification system by a third party  called a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) so don’t look at flyers with logos (cuz that might be bogus) ask for the Energy Star Certificate and check out the energy auditor who issued it.

Secondly,  while it’s pretty darn late in the game considering the array of products out there that may be bogusly certified,  the EPA (Energy Star’s parent Agency) has eliminated the “self certification” process for products wishing to don the label as of this week. (yay!)

Energy Star has been around for a while and I don’t doubt they have had significant effect on saving energy but they got lazy.  If you or your client want to take advantage of the federal tax credits for energy efficiency perhaps it would be a good idea to look at something like Greener Choices by Consumer Reports in addition to what is  listed on Energy Star’s website for a while until this all shakes down.

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Written By

Anna Altic – Village Real Estate Services. I’ve called Nashville home for the last 15 years and have been practicing (practice being the key word here) real estate for just over 6 years. In the fall of 2007, I went to a local German Festival that had a home tour, including a LEED certified property, and I instantly became enamored with the idea of eco friendly living (ok, so I’d had a little beer and the dual flush toilet rocked my world). I have since devoted much of my time and energies in to studying and espousing the benefits of better building technology within our local residential market and my proudest accomplishment thus far has been successfully leading the initiative to get over 25 green features added to our MLS search fields.



  1. Paul

    April 17, 2010 at 10:15 am

    This doesn’t look good for Energy Star especially because a lot of people are relying on their rating when purchasing new appliances. If bogus products can get passed their ‘audit’, then we’re not so assured that a product with an Energy Star rating will be energy-efficient.

  2. anthonys indianapolis homes for sale

    April 18, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Wow, what a joke. Thanks for sharing that. Any government-run or government-sponsored program always has lurking within it the potential for idiocy. This is just one example.

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