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energy efficiency

If you know the difference between the Energy Guide label and the Energy Star label, you are in better shape than many consumers, even many energy-conscious ones. (If you can explain why it makes sense to have three different federal agencies administer two separate labeling programs with names and purposes so similar that even retailers get them confused, you’re a genius.)

A law that took effect last week requires new televisions for sale in retail showrooms to carry yellow Energy Guide labels, allowing consumers to evaluate and compare how much energy different models use and how much they cost to operate each year. My colleague Liz Judge blogged about the impact of these labels previously.

The most eye-opening information those labels contain is in the fine print.

Your new appliance is more expensive to operate than you think.

Since 2007, certain household appliances have carried revamped yellow Energy Guide labels that contain two key features. The first is the estimated annual costs of powering the appliance. The second is a linear scale that enables you to compare that figure with the costs of operating similar models. Both of these are useful, but neither provides up-to-date information.

As I write this, members of the House of Representatives continue to debate and move their way through votes on hundreds of amendments to the chamber's government spending bill. The voting and debate has been a marathon process, stretching from morning through late at night for the last three days, and looks to carry on until late tonight or tomorrow.

On Feb. 8, a federal judge in Washington State sided with conservationists, energy efficiency boosters and the state's building code council, upholding new standards for energy conservation in new home construction. The homebuilders’ association had challenged the new standards, which went into effect this past Jan. 1, claiming they were in conflict with federal law.

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