ENERGY STAR® was created with the intention of preserving our environment, and it also saves YOU money long-term.
In today’s competitive economy, more and more hotels, restaurants, apartments and condos are switching over to appliances and other equipment with the ENERGY STAR® rating for a couple of BIG reasons: long-term savings and an increase in environmental sustainability. But what is ENERGY STAR® and why does it matter if a product has the ENERGY STAR® stamp?
Most domestic and commercial products that require energy to function generally operate under two classifications: High Efficiency or Standard Efficiency. Standard Efficiency products meet the minimum efficiency standards required by law by the U.S. Department of Energy. High Efficiency products, however, both meet and exceed this standard. One way to exceed standard expectations? Operate using less energy, which results in reduced environmental impact, while also reducing the cost of operation.
Origins of The ENERGY STAR® Product Label
Many of these High Efficiency products have been given the ENERGY STAR® label – a classification originally created by the joint efforts of the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an attempt to demonstrate how reducing energy production from power plants can actually turn more profit.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the computer was becoming an essential part of American business. However, early computer systems were not built with energy efficiency in mind and business owners were starting to worry about the increased electrical load and resulting energy costs that came with the new technology. With a demand for more energy efficient computers, and in hopes of an improved bottom line the ENERGY STAR® label was born.
Since 1992, the ENERGY STAR® rating has stood as an international symbol of a product that uses less energy than the other standard models in its class. The United States is not the only country who has embraced the ENERGY STAR® label – Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union all have ENERGY STAR® rated products.
Today the label has grown to encompass over 50 product sub-categories. Many of these are now specific to residential/home use, but there are plenty of ENERGY STAR® rated products and categories geared toward the commercial sector.
What does it mean to be ENERGY STAR® rated?
An ENERGY STAR® rating means that an appliance or product operates as well as or better than the similar products in its class, and uses anywhere from 20% to 30% less energy than is required by federal standards. Most of the time, this reduction in energy translates directly to a reduction in energy bills. For example, by upgrading to an ENERGY STAR® rated water heater, you’ll reduce the amount of energy used to run the appliance, and over time save a lot of money. (So, while a standard commercial water heater or boiler might appear cheaper up front, your long-term savings from a high-efficiency unit are clear.)
Saving money is always a hot topic. Long-term money saving is often the main reason businesses may look into upgrading their equipment. Today, according to the EPA, “American consumers, businesses, and organizations have made investments in energy efficiency that are transforming the market for efficient products and practices, creating jobs, and stimulating the economy.”
The genius behind ENERGY STAR® is that It’s crystal clear which products will save you money by saving you energy. You don’t have to do the research on energy savings, you simply have to identify the logo on the products you are shopping for!
Which commercial products have an ENERGY STAR® rating?
Energy Star products fall into 9 overall categories: Appliances, Building Products, Commercial Foodservice Equipment, Electronics, Heating & Cooling, Office Equipment, Lighting, Water Heaters and Other. Here’s a closer look at the commercial options in each category, including electronics that may pertain to both commercial and residential settings.
- Commercial Washers
- Roof Products
- Seal and Insulate Products
Commercial Food Service:
- Hot Food Holding Cabinets
- Ice Makers – Ice makers can be a major culprit when it comes to water usage as well!
- Steam Cookers
- Professional Displays – These large screens are commonly used in hotels, restaurants, senior living facilities, gyms and apartment complexes to quickly and easily display information to customers and guests.
- Slates and Tables – These handheld devices are becoming more popular in restaurants for menus and ordering purposes, as well as for health care as technology advances.
- Commercial boilers
- Light Commercial HVAC Equipment
- Enterprise Servers
- Imaging Equipment
- Small Network Equipment
- Uninterruptible Power Supplies
- Voice Over Internet Protocol Phones
- Commercial Water Heaters – An ENERGY STAR® rated high efficiency water heater operates at 94% efficiency or better and immediately begins to save you money in energy and water usage costs.
- Vending Machines
- Water Coolers
- Pool Pumps
How Do Products Get an ENERGY STAR® Rating?
The performance ratings given to these appliances are based a set of established guiding principles:
- The product categories must contribute to significant energy savings nationwide.
- A qualified product must meet and or exceed the standards of operation expected by consumers AND use 20% to 30%+ less energy than other standard models.
- If the qualified product costs more than the contemporary standard model, the amount of energy saved over time must make up for the initial investment.
- A product’s energy consumption and performance can be measured across a standard scale and be verified by testing.
- The technology used to create energy efficiency must be widely available and produced by more than one manufacturer to prevent a monopoly.
- The labeling will effectively and clearly mark the qualified product as an ENERGY STAR rated product.
Depending upon the type of product, there are a variety of additional guidelines that must be met for the product to be worthy of an ENERGY STAR® rating. Once a product does become ENERGY STAR® rated, it creates a multitude of benefits for that product’s company. Consumers will pay more money for an ENERGY STAR® rating because they understand the benefits: long-term savings and environmental protection.
A Note on Water Heating Technology
Many commercial high-efficiency water heaters are not officially ENERGY STAR® rated—but mainly because they just established parameters for commercial grade equipment a few years ago. Most commercial water heaters are too large to be considered consumer grade, so they were not subject to the EF rating system that ENERGY STAR® was using as a primary qualifier. However, more & more manufacturers are now able to use the official ENERGY STAR® label because the qualification criteria has been opened up to the commercial sector, at least for gas water heaters.
For a tank-type storage water heater to qualify it must be: over 75,000 BTUs but not exceed 140 gallons of storage capacity, have a thermal efficiency of at least 94% and a standby heat loss factor not to exceed 0.84 BTU/hr.
These parameters allow many commercial high-efficiency water heater models to now qualify. However, some of the larger input HE models that exceed 200,000 BTUs still can’t quite meet the requirements. But even those models are still over 92% efficient, and most other HE models are over 95% efficient.
The technologies used in high-efficiency water heaters have advanced a lot in just the last 5 years and are continually improving, so we expect to see even more ENERGY STAR® labels on commercial water heaters in the future. Switching to more energy efficient equipment of any kind will, over time, really save you money. On top of that, using less energy helps reduce the pollutants and toxic gasses that are produced by power plants—so ENERGY STAR truly offers a broad spectrum of economic and environmental benefits, both to the individual and to the world as a whole.
Is It Expensive to Make the Switch to ENERGY STAR® Equipment?
The short answer is not necessarily. When the ENERGY STAR® label first started showing up in the marketplace, the products were more expensive on average – though the increased upfront costs were often justified by the long-term savings. However, energy efficient technology has advanced quite a bit in the last 25 years, and this combined with the uptick in consumer demand for these products has brought prices down. Today you can often purchase an ENERGY STAR® rated model for roughly the same price as a non-ENERGY STAR® rated product. That said, any time a high efficiency model is more expensive up-front, be sure to investigate what your savings will be in the long-term.
Industry-Specific ENERGY STAR® Resources
As we touched on in the beginning, ENERGY STAR® was initially created to help businesses on energy costs to improve the bottom line. Today, the EPA provides hundreds of resources to businesses of all kinds to help them improve their energy efficiencies and see how they perform against the competition when it comes to sustainability.
A resource useful across various industries is the Rebate Finder. Check out this link to see what ENERGY STAR® rated equipment and programs are being incentivized right now! ENERGY STAR® rebates are a great way to get in on the energy saving game.
Restaurants: According to this guide from the EPA, “Restaurants use about 2.5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings.” The guide gives a detailed account of ENERGY STAR® rated equipment and how much these ENERGY STAR® appliances can save restaurant owners annually. This fact sheet, also from the EPA, provides additional ideas for increased energy savings.
Senior Care Facilities: This link will provide resources for comparing your senior facility with others across the country and Canada, as well as helping you understand what it takes to be an ENERGY STAR® certified facility! This could be a great marketing tactic as today’s modern seniors age and are looking for facilities that support their values!
Hospitality: Owners of hotels and motels are no stranger to the high costs of energy bills! Use these guides to gain a greater understanding of energy use in the hotel industry, and discover the places you can begin to cut costs. There are plenty of opportunities to switch out your old equipment for ENERGY STAR® appliances!
Apartment Buildings: Targeting energy efficiencies in multi-family housing complexes is a top priority for the EPA, based on the extensive library of resources they have to offer! There are branding and marketing resources, energy efficiency case-studies and even activities designed to get your tenants involved in the energy (and cost) savings.
ENERGY STAR® was created with the intention of preserving our environment, and as an added bonus, it saves YOU money long-term. While most people like the idea of saving the environment, the bottom line boils down to money. By saving people and businesses (including hotel, restaurant and apartment owners) money, ENERGY STAR® is win-win for both business and the environment.
Image “Energy Star Air Conditioner” courtesy of Flickr user William Sherman licensed under CC by 2.0. Image “Champagne Stackable With Steam Cycle Front Load Washer – Energy Star” courtesy of Flickr user Goedekers licensed under CC by 2.0.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr user MoneyBlogNewz licensed under CC by 2.0.