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ENERGY STAR is an EPA program, begun in 1991 as Project Green Lights, with the goal of identifying and promoting energy-efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases. The heart of the program is the ENERGY STAR label, which is awarded to only the most energy efficient products and buildings. Initially only computers and monitors were evaluated and labeled with the ENERGY STAR. Over the years the program expanded to include additional office equipment products, residential heating and cooling equipment, major appliances, lighting, home electronics, new homes, and commercial and industrial buildings. Food service equipment first became eligible for ENERGY STAR recognition in 2001 when EPA established specifications for commercial reach-in refrigerators and freezers. In 2003, EPA added hot holding cabinets, gas and electric steamers, and gas and electric fryers.

Unlike the yellow energy use information labels posted on most appliances, only those products that meet the stringent energy efficiency ratings established by the Department of Energy (DOE) qualify for the ENERGY STAR logo. The testing specifications are based on the highest performing models in a category-typically the top 25%. Companies whose product earns the ENERGY STAR can use the logo on their product, product packaging and in product literature. To build recognition and value for the ENERGY STAR logo, EPA employs marketing tools such as advertising, public relations, employee training, and its website.

EPA also supports an ENERGY STAR Partners program to encourage building owners and businesses, including food service establishments, to achieve whole-building efficiency and to purchase ENERGY STAR products. Up to a 30% return on investment is predicted for restaurants that follow the ENERGY STAR energy survey's recommendations. Currently, EPA has or is developing standardized measurement tools for evaluating the efficiency performance of retail, office, school, lodging, healthcare, and food service/sales facilities. Visit the Business Improvement section of the ENERGY STAR website at www.energystar.gov for more information and access to the available tools.

To maintain the integrity of the ENEGY STAR label, the EPA:

  • Routinely monitors the use of the label on products in the market place to ensure that it is used to identify only products that qualify
  • Selectively tests products to ensure that products said to qualify for the label do indeed qualify
  • Updates the performance specifications for the ENERGY STAR as market conditions change so that the ENERGY STAR continues to identify the most efficient, cost-effective products on the market