A consumer star fades

Here’s a consumer news story you definitely would never want to read: The Energy Star sticker on that appliance — which might have persuaded you to pay extra — could well be bogus. Apparently, nobody checks to see if the efficiency rating the Energy Star label implies on your purchases is warranted.

Here’s a consumer news story you definitely would never want to read: The Energy Star sticker on that appliance — which might have persuaded you to pay extra — could well be bogus. Apparently, nobody checks to see if the efficiency rating the Energy Star label implies on your purchases is warranted.

And, of all things, it was a government watchdog agency that blew the whistle.

Energy Star is supposed to be a certification process to assure consumers in both Canada and the United States that whatever it is you buy is a top performer, energy-wise.

But, in what you might suspect to be an April Fool prank by the Scripps Howard News Service, a story made the wires last week that the U.S. Government Accountability Office submitted undercover bogus applications for Energy Star approval — and in some cases got them.

One application was for an air cleaner, purported to be at least 20 per cent more efficient than the average competitor. But actually, is was just an electric space heater with a feather duster attached to it, along with a few strips of flypaper. It was approved for sale with an Energy Star label on it, in 11 days.

Another project was for a gas-powered alarm clock called Black-Gold. It was the size of a portable power generator.

Yet another — and this could be scary-expensive — was for a geothermal heat pump. Totally bogus, but approved with no questions asked.

One project was questioned, a dehumidifier. But after receiving email assurances that it was indeed 20 per cent more efficient than high-rated similar products, it was approved.

Some applications were not accepted, proving that Energy Star staff actually do read the applications. One was a bogus battery charging system, another was a decorative light string and another was a product described as an “electric office hammer.”

Consumers put a lot of trust in testing and rating agencies to do the research that is nearly impossible for the average person. Who can check to see if the annual energy consumption of one clothes dryer really is better than another? And by how much? Enough to make it worth $100 more in the stores?

The Energy Star label is supposed to give us a measure of trust that somebody with the training actually tests the products to see if manufacturers’ claims are true.

If — as this report would lead us to believe — there really is no testing done, and a bunch of bureaucrats are simply taking a lot of money to look at pictures, read some mail and rubber-stamp a certification, consumers should be warned.

In the U.S., the watcher who watches the watchers is the Government Accountability Office. They made up the bogus projects, submitted them as if from real businesses and waited to see what happened.

How many layers of bureaucracy do you need? Just one that works.

And now we know that one layer of bureaucracy we cannot trust is Energy Star.

So as consumers, you’re back to not knowing whose claims of energy consumption are valid for the expensive products that you buy and whose aren’t.

It’s been caveat emptor all along.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province has seen its first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is shown at a COVID-19 press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Lawmakers are debating legislation to legalize single-event betting as a bill reaches final reading in the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

Letisha Reimer is shown in a photo, part of a memorial to her outside Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in Abbotsford, B.C., Monday, Nov.7, 2016. A B.C. Supreme Court judge is expected to deliver her decision today over whether a man who stabbed two high school students is not criminally responsible because he had a mental disorder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geordon Omand
Man who stabbed two students in Abbotsford, B.C., found criminally responsible

Man who stabbed two students in Abbotsford, B.C., found criminally responsible

Light from the sunset hits the skyline in Toronto, Ont., on Tuesday October 31, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Hate crimes jumped 51 per cent in part spurred by pandemic, Toronto police report

Hate crimes jumped 51 per cent in part spurred by pandemic, Toronto police report

A passenger from Air India flight 187 from New Delhi arrives at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Wednesday April 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canada to suspend flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days

Canada to suspend flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days

Inter Pipeline's Heartland Petrochemical Complex in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. is shown in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Inter Pipeline *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Hostile takeover target Inter Pipeline reports 60% of Heartland plant is contracted

Hostile takeover target Inter Pipeline reports 60% of Heartland plant is contracted

Smoke pours from the stacks at the Portlands Energy Centre in Toronto on Thursday January 15, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Risk experts say climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050

Risk experts say climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050

Most Read