Understanding the EnergyGuide and ENERGY STAR Labels

Understanding the EnergyGuide and ENERGY STAR Labels

What you need to know before you go shopping for your next appliance

Energy and water cost a whole lot more than they used to. So, it’s more important than ever to choose energy efficient appliances. Yes, they cost more. But energy efficient ones cost less to operate, saving you money over the long run. This is important as your major appliances will last 10 years or so.

Fortunately, most appliances have a distinctive tag on them to help you make an informed choice when it comes to operational costs—the yellow and black EnergyGuide label. And if it’s super energy efficient, it will bear an ENERGY STAR logo.

But what do the labels really mean? Let’s take a closer look at each one.

What is an EnergyGuide label?

The Federal Trade Commission oversees EnergyGuide labels. Not every class of appliance bears one, but your major home appliances do. The label is designed to tell you how much energy that appliance uses. And it provides a common base of comparison across similar appliances.

Appliances that have an EnergyGuide label include:

  • Boilers
  • Ceiling fans
  • Central air conditioners
  • Clothes dryer
  • Clothes washers
  • Dishwashers
  • Freezers
  • Furnaces
  • Heat pumps
  • Pool heaters
  • Refrigerators
  • Televisions
  • Water heaters
  • Room and portable air conditioners

This list does grow over time. It should be noted that although light bulb packages don’t have the big label, they do show energy consumption.

How to read an EnergyGuide label

Now, let’s take a closer look at a typical label. This one is for a refrigerator and comes from the Federal Trade Commission itself. Labels for other types of appliances will bear a similar appearance.


A. The upper left notes the kind of appliance and several key features. 

B. The upper right specifies the brand, model number, and capacity. 

C. The big scale in the label’s center is the number you should pay attention to. The bold number is for that appliance and is placed within a range of least expensive to most expensive among similar models. Note the numbers are an estimate—there’s no way the label could reflect your area’s utility costs. But the good news is that all similar models use the same common rate. That way you can easily compare like models.

D. The box below the scale provides you with a yearly use estimate. This also gives you some critical information if you want to calculate a closer estimate to real costs. 

E. The final set of information tells you how they arrived at the cost range. This label notes a 2007 reference. Labels out in the real world should hopefully be based on more recent costs. Regardless, this part of the label specifies the kWh per hour rate they used. It may not even be close to what you pay per kWh.

Doing the math

If you know your utility’s kWh rate, you can calculate a closer estimate to real operational costs.

For example, I live in Oklahoma City. OG&E is the electricity provider. On their website they list several pricing schedules. Here’s the base residential one:

Customer Charge: $13.00 per month.

Energy Charge:

Summer Season: The five OG&E Revenue Months of June through October.

First 1,400 kWh per month: 6.35¢ per kWh. All additional kWh per month: 7.09¢ per kWh.

Winter Season: The seven OG&E Revenue Months of November through May. First 600 kWh per month: 6.35¢ per kWh. All additional kWh per month: 2.43¢ per kWh.

As you can see, rates fluctuate based on the season and usage. Using my summer utility bill as my base in terms of total number of kWh used, I feel comfortable with 6.35¢ per kWh. If I was an electricity hog, I’d go with 7.09¢ or create an average of 6.95¢.

So, for the EnergyGuide example above: $.0635 x 630 kWh = $40.00.

And even though I am on a summertime time-of-day energy-use rate program, I’m playing it safe and using standard rates for my calculations.

If you can’t find your base rate or usage on your energy bills, call your utility company.


Appliances and other objects with an ENERGY STAR sticker meet certain energy-efficiency guidelines set by the EPA. Products are independently certified by over 20 certification bodies and more than 500 labs.


Think of ENERGY STAR products as the cream of the crop, exceeding federal standards for efficiency and quality. They must also offer features and performance expected by consumers, provide energy savings that more than offset a higher purchase price, and use non-proprietary technology. In other words, they must use tech that’s available to multiple companies.

The label can be a standalone blue and white sticker. And sometimes a black ENERGY STAR logo is incorporated somewhere into an EnergyGuide label as you can see below.


Here is a current list of ENERGY STAR products. If you are serious about saving money over the long haul, be sure to consult this database. It’s where your shopping journey should begin.

Are ENERGY STAR products making a difference?

According to a 2021 ENERGY STAR survey, yes!

  • By choosing ENERGY STAR, a typical household can save about $450 on their energy bills and still enjoy the quality and performance they expect.
  • In 2020, ENERGY STAR certified products helped consumers save 240 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, avoid $24 billion in energy costs, and achieve 180 million metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions.
  • EPA sets definitions of efficiency leadership for more than 75 residential and commercial product categories. Currently, more than 80,000 product models have earned the ENERGY STAR based on these rigorous criteria.
  • More than 3,800 product models from over 220 manufacturers were recognized as “ENERGY STAR Most Efficient” in 2021.

Benefits of buying energy-efficient appliances

When buying appliances, it really does pay to do your research.

  • Know what size space you must work with
  • Know what key features you want
  • Know your base energy rate
  • Find ENERGY STAR models that have the features you want
  • Then compare those models’ yellow EnergyGuide labels against each other to find the one that’s the least expensive to operate

Beyond their reduced operating costs, many energy-efficient appliances may also qualify for rebates through your utility company or other special incentives. So be sure to check out this database for possible utility- and government-sponsored incentives.

Shop smart. Shop with energy efficiency in mind.

Finally, if your new appliance doesn’t come with one, don’t forget to buy a new power cord, water hose, etc. You can purchase them online from Certified Appliance Accessories. You’ll save money and have them on-hand when the delivery/installation crew arrives up with your new appliance.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Certified Appliance Accessories is not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.