UL: Third-party Energy-efficiency Testing Offers Opportunity to Prove Compliance with Government Programs
Earlier this month, the International Energy Association released a report that noted an “energy technology revolution” is underway. This is exciting news for those of us who have been working to put the pieces in place to encourage this type of a market shift. Policy makers have been actively seeking solutions to the energy demand and supply conundrum, often using a variety of tools to do so. Among the most popular techniques employed: the voluntary reduction program. These programs, targeted at businesses and consumers, are meant to encourage the development and eventual purchase of energy-efficient products.
Consumers and manufacturers are looking for more efficient products and processes, and several government programs exist around the world to set standards and encourage efficiency for products and processes. In fact, many governments are actively changing requirements.
As the global economy becomes increasingly energy conscious, governments will continue to evaluate and regulate the design and use of products to increase efficiency. To help ensure products are adhering to requirements, governments are looking to third-party testing and certification organizations to validate that energy-efficiency standards are being met.
Today, manufacturer self-declared energy efficiency claims are giving way to a new era of third-party testing and validation. In North America, there have been several significant announcements this year that impact manufacturers participating in the ENERGY STAR program or selling products in Canada. The Natural Resources Canada Office of Energy Efficiency has historically regulated appliances, HVAC equipment and motors. Starting July 1, 2011, NRCan is proposing energy labeling requirements for televisions. In addition to the new regulations in Canada, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy recently announced intentions to expand regulated product categories and develop stricter efficiency requirements. EPA also will require that all products be tested by an accredited laboratory before qualifying for ENERGY STAR.
Testing organizations are evolving to meet these new regulations. In February 2010, UL Environment launched the Energy Efficiency Certification Mark to show compliance with energy-efficiency standards and regulations. The EEC Mark appears on home products proven to meet energy-efficiency requirements outlined by entities, like EPA, NRCan and the California Energy Commission. Participating product categories include appliances; heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems; high-tech equipment; and lighting products. More product categories and geographic markets will be added over time.
During the next few years, government energy-efficiency requirements will continue to evolve to address increasing demands for energy efficiency. Independent energy-efficiency testing programs may be new today, but expect them to be “business as usual” tomorrow.
Marcello Manca is vice president and general manager for UL Environment Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. Find out more about the UL Environment Energy Efficiency Certification program at www.ulenvironment.com.
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We’ve all seen the following green labels and evaluation tools for products:
This is actually just a short list of all the rating systems and evaluation tools available for products on the market today. Conduct your own Internet search and you’ll be shocked at how many there are and what diverse organizations are creating them.
What does this mean for us both as design professionals and end-user consumers? Confusion. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? How are the claims and ratings measured? What scientific basis has each used? What about total life-cycle analysis? Even more important: Who gets to decide?
These are some of the questions that will need to be considered for the future of our design and construction industry. With so many standards to choose from and potentially so much disagreement about which group’s rating systems should be used to determine building environmental evaluations, it will only become more difficult to continue applying building rating systems.
There have already been many arguments between scientific groups and designers about which rating systems are appropriate and which are based on the real issues relating to the environment. Some of these arguments have been the reason for the development of life-cycle analysis and life-cycle cost analysis, which have very different review methods and, therefore, different benefits and drawbacks.
USGBC/LEED claims that it will be converting into a more detailed life-cycle analysis process as part of its future evaluation methods. This sounds like the right thing to do to be truly environmentally conscious. Initially, my firm thought this would be one of the strongest revisions to LEED v3.0–2009, but it didn’t end up being developed enough to be fully implemented. Until then, we’ll wait with everyone else to see where it lands.
I will be writing a future article about product rating systems and evaluation tools, such as LCA and LCCA, for Eco-Logic. If you have specific questions or concerns you’d like me to address, please comment below.
Dale A. Anderson, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, CSBA, EDAC, is a principal of BCRA, Tacoma, Wash.
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