Personal energy audit: What can YOU do?

The UMR Magazine staff caught up with John Sheffield of UMR’s Industrial Assessment Center to find out what the average consumer can do to conserve energy. The IAC conducts energy audits for companies to help them cut their energy costs. Sheffield says real energy savings come through the use of energy-efficient appliances. And apparently, it’s all about reading labels.


“When shopping for new home appliances, there are two U.S. government-sponsored labeling programs designed to help you find the most energy efficient, environmentally friendly options,” Sheffield says. “Knowing what these labels mean and how to use them can help you make intelligent appliance purchases.”
The bright yellow EnergyGuide labels are required by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to display an estimate of the appliance’s energy consumption and annual operating costs based on average national energy costs. They’re required on all new appliances with a fairly wide range of energy efficiencies between models, including refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, clothes washers, central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and boilers. Appliances with little difference between models, such as kitchen ranges, clothes dryers, and microwave ovens, are exempt.
“These prominent and easy-to-understand labels make it simple to compare the cost-to-operate of different models and make informed purchase decisions,” Sheffield says.
“Let’s say you are shopping for a new refrigerator and you’ve narrowed the field to just two models at roughly the same cost. EnergyGuide labels give you the critical information you need to make a good investment decision between the two. If one costs $68 per year and the other costs $88 per year, you now have to decide if the more expensive to operate model is really worth an extra $20 dollars per year. And keep in mind, that’s every year, so the extra cost or savings can really add up.”
The other label you’ll likely see as you shop for new appliances is the ENERGY STAR® label, sometimes referred to as the government’s seal of approval. Found on major appliances, office equipment, lighting products, home electronics, and more, it helps buyers identify appliances with higher energy efficiency.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the program in 1992 to help consumers protect the environment by purchasing appliances with higher energy efficiency. The program’s ultimate goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. ENERGY STAR-labeled appliances exceed federal efficiency standards often by 15 percent, and as much as 110 percent for some appliances, Sheffield says. Buyers can be assured that a labeled appliance will have a lower cost of operation over its life than some other models.
To see how energy efficient your house is, Sheffield recommends visiting the Alliance to Save Energy online. Its Home Energy Checkup is located at www.ase.org/content/article/detail/971.

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