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FTC Resisting Common-Sense Changes To Refrigerator Labels

Would you give ENERGY STAR to a sport-utility vehicle? What about a sport-utility refrigerator?

As with fuel economy for cars, the most important factors affecting a refrigerator’s energy usage include size, design and features. Specifically, the location of the freezer section, the addition of an automatic icemaker, and the addition of a through-the-door ice dispenser can all make a big difference in a model’s energy usage. But the labeling programs designed to promote energy-efficient models instead hide these impacts.

Today’s Energy Guide labels for refrigerators compare energy use only among models that have the exact same configuration and features. ENERGY STAR works the same way, allowing products to carry the mark even if they have the least efficient combination of configurations and features.

Manufacturers like it this way. They profit more from selling the refrigerator equivalent of SUVs. And they know that if consumers find out other designs not only cost less to buy but also lead to less pollution, more consumers might shy away from the high-priced energy hogs.

But that is the point of the Energy Guide label. And it is why Earthjustice and our allies are pushing the Federal Trade Commission to provide information comparing energy use of refrigerators with different configurations and features. If those ranges wind up encouraging consumers to consider switching to a more efficient configuration or design, all the better.

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