Efficiency of Energy Use, Labeling of

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued the Appliance Labeling Rule in 1979 in response to a directive from Congress in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA). In addition to mandating that the FTC promulgate this labeling Rule, EPCA directed the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to establish energy conservation standards for residential household appliances and to develop and maintain test procedures by which members of the appliance industry could measure the efficiency or energy use of these products.

The Rule requires manufacturers of most major household appliances to show energy information about their products on labels so consumers purchasing the appliances can compare the energy use or efficiency of competing models. Without this energy use information on EnergyGuide labels, purchasers would have no way to assess the energy efficiency of appliance products and thus would not be able to include the information as a criterion in their purchasing decisions. At the time it was published, the Rule applied to refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, water heaters, window air conditioners, furnaces, and boilers. In 1987 the FTC included central air conditioners and heat pumps, and in 1989 the FTC added a requirement for a simple disclosure for fluorescent lamp ballasts. In 1993 and 1994, the FTC added requirements for the disclosure of water use for certain plumbing products, the disclosure of energy-related information for light bulbs and fluorescent lighting products, and the disclosure of energy-efficiency information for pool heaters. The FTC exempted other products listed in EPCA from labeling requirements—such as stovetops and ovens, clothes dryers, television sets, space heaters, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers—because it did not believe that the energy use among different models was great enough to be a potentially significant factor for consumers considering purchasing the products.

To comply with the Rule, manufacturers of all covered major household appliances must place a black-and-yellow "EnergyGuide" label on each of their products that shows the energy consumption or efficiency of the labeled product (Figure 1). The labels also must show a "range of comparability" bar or scale (published regularly by the FTC) that shows the highest and lowest energy consumption or efficiencies for all appliance models that have features similar to those of the labeled one. In addition to the energy consumption or efficiency disclosure, the labels must show the products's estimated annual operating cost, based on a specified national average cost for the fuel the appliances use. Manufacturers must derive the efficiency, energy use, and operating cost information from the standardized tests that EPCA directed DOE to develop. The information on the EnergyGuide label also must appear in catalogs from which the products can be ordered.

Appliance manufacturers must attach the labels to the exterior surface of their products or use hang tag labels, which must be attached in such as way as to be easily viewed by a consumer examining the product. Manufacturers of furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps also must attach EnergyGuide labels to their products showing the products's efficiency and the applicable range of comparability, but the labels need not contain operating cost information. As with appliances, the information on the EnergyGuide also must appear in catalogs from which the products can be ordered.

The requirements for products other than major home appliances vary depending upon the product. Manufacturers of fluorescent lamp ballasts must disclose an encircled "E" on ballasts and on luminaires containing ballasts, as well as on packaging for both. The "E" signifies compliance with DOE's energy conservation standards for those products. Manufacturers of showerheads, faucets, toilets, and urinals must disclose, on the products and their packaging and labeling, the water usage of their products in terms of gallons and liters per flush, per minute, or per cycle. Manufacturers of certain incandescent bulbs, spot and flood bulbs, and screw-base compact fluorescent bulbs must disclose, on packaging, the light output in lumens, energy used in watts, voltage, average life, and number of bulbs. They also must explain how purchasers can select the most energy-efficient bulb for their needs. Manufacturers of certain tube-type fluorescent bulbs must disclose on packages an encircled letter "E" and a statement that the "E" logo means the bulb meets U.S. federal minimum efficiency standards.

The FTC can assess penalties under the Rule against manufacturers for violations of the above requirements. The Rule also states that energy-use-related representations regarding covered products, including print and broadcast advertisements, must be based on the DOE test procedures.

James G. Miller

See also: Economically Efficient Energy Choices


Appliance Labeling Rule, Code of Federal Regulations, 1979. Vol. 16, part 305.

Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, U.S. Code. Title 42, secs. 6291–6309.