Feed

Search This Blog

Energy Star Fraud - Beware, Applicable to Homes Too

A new report from the auditing arm of Congress shows that the federal Energy Star program has a sloppy certification process that can be easily abused.

The 18-year-old program, which is administered jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, offers consumers rebates and tax credits on appliances that meet certain standards for energy efficiency.  American consumers, businesses, and federal agencies rely on the Energy Star program to identify products that decrease greenhouse emissions and lower energy costs. Companies use Energy Star certification to market their products to consumers in the hopes they will buy products based on government certification of their energy consumption and costs.

Given the millions of dollars allocated to encourage use of Energy Star products and concerns that the Energy Star program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse, GAO was asked to conduct proactive testing to (1) obtain Energy Star partnership status for bogus companies and (2) submit fictitious products for Energy Star certification. To perform this investigation, GAO used four bogus manufacturing firms and fictitious individuals to apply for Energy Star partnership and submitted 20 fictitious products with fake energy-savings claims for Energy Star certification. GAO also reviewed program documents and interviewed agency officials and officials from agency Inspector General (IG) offices.

But in a report issued today, the Government Accountability Office says its auditors obtained Energy Star certifications for 15 of 20 products it submitted using fictitious companies and individuals. Those certifications led to requests from real companies to buy some products because they had received Energy Star endorsements.

The phony products included a gasoline-powered alarm clock, which was approved by Energy Star without a review of the company web site or questions about the efficiency claimed for it.  Auditors also submitted a geothermal heat pump, which they claimed to be more efficient than any product listed as certified on the Energy Star Web site.  The product was certified and its efficiency data was not questioned. Two bogus products were rejected by the program and 3 did not receive a response. One of the products that an outside company wanted to buy was a computer monitor that had been approved by Energy Star within 30 minutes of submission.

This clearly shows how heavily American consumers rely on the Energy Star brand.

At briefings on GAO's investigation, DOE and EPA officials agreed that the program is currently based on self-certifications by manufacturers. However, officials stated there are after-market tests and self-policing that ensure standards are maintained. GAO did not test or evaluate controls related to products that were already certified and available to the public. In addition, prior DOE IG, EPA IG, and GAO reports have found that current Energy Star controls do not ensure products meet efficiency guidelines.

In 2008 Energy Star reported saving consumers $19 billion dollars on utility costs.  Energy Star is slated to receive about $300 million in federal stimulus money to be used for state rebate programs on energy-efficient products.

Energy Star fraud not only affects products, but your house. Many homes are Energy Star “approved”, while a quick thermal scan can determine whether the house is, in fact, energy efficient. As a licensed home inspector, I have come across many homes that were “Energy Star compliant” but consistently had gaps of missing insulation among other problems with air leaks, thermal barriers, duct issues, leaks, etc. Beware of an Energy Star rated home, get an infrared energy audit before investing in a property.

Below are some sample pictures of mine from home inspections of Energy Star approved houses:

No Response to "Energy Star Fraud - Beware, Applicable to Homes Too"

Copyright © 2009 Thermal Scan All rights reserved.