Cary, N.C. — Consumers sometimes wonder if they can really conserve energy by buying an appliance with the Energy Star label.
"I think yes and no," said Dona Stankus, building programs manager with the North Carolina Solar Center in the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University.
The Energy Star program is a government effort to help consumers pick the most energy-efficient appliances. Appliance manufacturers test their own products.
However, last year Consumer Reports found discrepancies between manufacturers' claims and the magazine's independent tests. Sometimes, companies turned off some features or used special settings to meet Energy Star criteria.
The government is considering changing the Energy Star program, including toughening standards and creating a new designation. An "Energy Superstar" program would identify the top 5 percent of energy-efficient products.
Still, Stankus said, finding an Energy Star label is a good start to figuring out if an appliance is energy efficient.
"That tells you they made the first attempt, that they're trying to be part of a program that saves energy," she said.
Stankus said buyers should also look at the yellow Energy Guide label to see how much electricity an appliance uses and how much it would cost to operate in a year.
Bill Revenaugh, a father-of-two shopping for a front-loading washer and dryer, said he's come to the conclusion that picking energy-efficient appliances is a smart choice for everyone.
"We're all looking to not only save money," he said, "but also to be good to the planet."