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There is an excellent chance that anyone reading this right now can look around his or her home and find appliances, computers or other electronics that bear the “Energy Star” label.

Go ahead and take a look. We’ll wait.

Find any? Well, since the Energy Star ID system was developed in 1992, millions of appliances and other devices we buy from time to time may carry this significant rating. Many of us buy such items without noticing the cheerful blue square mearing the word “energy” with a star logo.

What is Energy Star?

It’s a government program that was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and later joined by the Department of Energy (DOE). The program operated under the authority of the Clean Air Act which was first enacted in 1963.

The Energy Star program is one of the most successful government programs in recent history. Since its introduction in 1992, it has saved American consumers an estimated $430 billion on their energy bills. That translates to about $35 billion a year.

Perhaps even more importantly, Energy Star is calculated to prevent an incredible 330 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from being spewed into the atmosphere every year.

Few other government programs have been so effective.

How Does Energy Star Work?

When it first came out, the Energy Star program focused on only home computers and desktop printers. It was so successful that in 1995 it was expanded to include heating and cooling systems for homes. It now includes many kinds of products that use electricity. There are 75 different categories that range from home-used products, such as refrigerators and air conditioners, to equipment used in office buildings and industrial settings.

It works by providing consumers with information on how efficiently a product uses energy. This helps people make good choices for saving energy, money and protecting the environment.

To qualify for the Energy Star designation, a product must undergo rigorous testing for its energy usage and efficiency. This work is conducted by technicians with the Department of Energy. To get the Energy Star label, products must:

  1. Show they can achieve significant energy savings nationwide.
  2. Deliver features and performance rates promised to consumers in addition to superior energy efficiency.

Note that if an Energy Star product has a higher price tag than a non-Energy Star item, the buyer will usually get their investment back in energy savings over the lifetime of the product or sooner.