Is Energy Star really all it’s cracked up to be?

Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything.
~Greg Easterbrook

I hear all the time about “energy efficient” this and “Energy Star” that. But is it really worth it, environmentally, to purchase a new, more energy efficient model instead of using an older, less efficient model? Is Energy Star really all it’s hyped up to be?

From everything I’ve been told, the answer is a resounding “yes.” I’ve even heard that it’s environmentally friendly to replace your existing appliances with newer models every six or seven years.

But if I just accepted this blindly and didn’t question it, this post would not be on the Tiny Ouroboros. It would be on some other blog. Put on your tinfoil hat, folks, it’s time for some speculation.

Soooooooooo…imagine you own a company that makes appliances. Large ones. Refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, pick one. Green is becoming trendy. Reduce, reuse, recycle, all that good stuff. How do you keep your profits up? By promoting the sale of appliances, of course! But how do you do that when your consumers are trying to go eco-friendly?

Easy. Find something that will make your product both “green” while at the same time obsolete in a few years.

See where I’m going with this?

Make the product more energy efficient, but not too much more. That way in a few years you can come out with a better, even more efficient model. Every now and then, come up with some really efficient idea and market the hell out of that. Rinse and repeat. Suddenly you have a green appliance that becomes supposedly obsolete in a few years.

All that’s left is to come up with some sort of label that becomes a watchword in the product category (like organic is for food), and then flood the market about how energy efficiency is good for the environment. Either buy some science to make it so, or just ignore science altogether and hope no one asks too many questions about the cradle-to-grave costs associated with buying a new appliance every couple of years.

Just something to think about.

3 Responses to “Is Energy Star really all it’s cracked up to be?”

  1. Well, from an engineering standpoint, anything that sees the sort of usage that a household appliance sees is going to wear out. Not necessarily as fast as they might claim, especially if you actually perform MAINTENANCE and READ THE MANUAL. There is still an element of wear, though, and with that wear you -do- lose efficiency. Couple that with the advances that we see made in a decade in appliances and I’d say that’s at least reason to consider replacing something with a newer (but used…screw buying that stuff new. That’s what rich idiots are for.) model when you’ve gotten a decade or two of wear on it. Of course, if it works as well as you need, why the heck are you replacing it?

  2. Dargon Says:

    Concerning the energy use standpoint, It comes down to a simple question: Is the energy use in the manufacture and lifetime use of the product less than the energy use in the manufacture, lifetime use, and disposal of the current appliance. Since I have not seen any numbers, I cannot say, but I would not be surprised if that condition is not met by typical energy star appliances.

    • Well, typically in the design process you take the end-life into consideration as well. Whether that translates to their marketing could be a completely different story.

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