Energy Star is like the Xerox of energy ratings. It's everywhere—from product advertisements to store shelves and labels—but that doesn't mean the government agency is the only energy efficiency rater out there. And it's definitely not the best. In 2010, Energy Star approved and rated four different fake products in a Government Accountability Office investigation. Yikes! So where else can you turn? The Consortium for Energy Efficiency.
House Logic offers up a short write-up of the three major energy ratings agencies—the CEE, Energy Star, and Energy Guide—but they admit that the Consortium for Energy Efficiency offers up "truly stellar energy performance."
Just like Energy Star, the CEE rates appliances, cooling and heating systems, lighting and electronics. But they're much more strict than Energy Star, offering better and more accurate ratings across the board. In fact, some of the products that get the highest ratings from Energy Star fall at the low end of CEE's product evaluations.
So why aren't these folks the go-to energy raters? We don't know. But if you're shopping for a new washing machine, check out their site before you leave the house. You'll find lists of products in every category that meets CEE's stringent standards.
Appliances and HVAC systems go through an even more strict system, and are placed into three tiers. Tier 1 products meet Energy Star's minimum requirements, while CEE's Tier 3 products are, as House Logic put it, "super-efficient—the cream of the crop."