Using energy-efficient products not only contributes to preserving natural resources, but also helps consumers to save quite a bit of green in terms of cost-effective savings. For example, an energy-efficient kitchen dishwasher uses an average of 40 percent less energy than standard models. For every incandescent light bulb replaced with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) can reduce home electricity costs by 50-75 percent and prevent the escape of carbon emissions the near equivalent generated from 800,000 cars on the highway each year.
To help further the development and availability of energy-efficient products, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy partnered together to initiate a program called ENERGY STAR® in the mid-1990s. At first, this program invited manufacturers to voluntarily follow the guidelines set forth in the program in exchange for the privilege of carrying the ENERGY STAR® compliance label. The first consumer products to carry the label were computers and related equipment. Today, however, the program has been extended to virtually all home appliances and electronics, heating and cooling systems, office equipment, and even materials used in commercial and residential construction.
While only a handful of manufacturers may have participated in the ENERGY STAR® program in its early days, the classic blue compliance label can be found nearly everywhere today. In fact, energy-efficient products are provided by scores of retailers and manufacturers for both federal procurement and consumer purchase. However, the most easily found items are still limited to refrigerators, washing machines, and CFL bulbs. In addition, the ENERGY STAR® website, maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, provides a store locator to help consumers find energy-efficient products ranging from home electronics to residential water heaters.
In addition to enjoying environmental conservation efforts and long-term savings, consumers may be able to take advantage of additional benefits when they purchase energy-efficient products. For instance, there may be federal tax credits for those building new homes, depending on the time of construction and materials used. The ENERGY STAR® program also includes retail and manufacturing partners that offer rebates for purchasing energy-efficient products. Some utility companies participate in this rebate program as well. In addition, some states offer supplementary tax credit and rebate incentive programs.