DOE probes alleged standards violation by maker of heating, cooling equipment

The Energy Department began a new investigation late last week of an alleged violation of energy efficiency standards by a manufacturer of air conditioning and heating equipment.

DOE issued a subpoena to Air Con International on Friday, one day after launching a similar investigation into the maker of torchiere floor lamps (Greenwire, March 24).

"These enforcement actions and investigations, coupled with strengthened energy efficiency appliance standards, will protect the environment while saving American families and businesses billions of dollars," DOE General Counsel Scott Blake Harris said in a statement.

DOE is giving Air Con 30 days to submit detailed information about the energy consumption, marketing and sales of its products.

The investigations come as DOE faces increased pressure over its Energy Star certification program administered jointly with U.S. EPA. Last fall, an audit found some products without the Energy Star label were more efficient than those with it. And last week, a Government Accountability Office report said the Energy Star program is vulnerable to fraud (Greenwire, March 26).


DOE said it is ramping up enforcement of both Energy Star and minimum efficiency standards.

"Efficiency standards are intended to get products ... that don't meet minimum standards out of the market, while Energy Star drives the market toward efficiency," said Jen Stutsman, a DOE spokeswoman. "It's important to address both."

DOE's last week began investing alleged standard violations for torchiere lamps manufactured by Habitex Corp. and sold by Target Corp. and Adesso Inc. The probe was spurred by an independent investigation by the Natural Resources Defense Council, according to the environmental group.

NRDC performed an Internet search for products advertised as using more energy than allowed by federal efficiency standards. After discovering that both Target and Adesso labeled lamps as using 300 watts -- 110 watts higher than the standard -- the group tested the models with a standard wattage meter and found the lamps used more than twice the allowed wattage, according to NRDC. The group then sent the information to DOE.

"Appliances that don't meet the minimum efficiency standards waste money and cause unnecessary pollution," Noah Long, an NRDC sustainable energy fellow, wrote in a blog posting last week. "The torchieres that we found are likely only the tip of the iceberg of energy-wasting appliances."

It's unclear who sparked the new investigation of air conditioners and heat pumps. Stutsman said only that DOE was tipped off about the alleged standards violations by a third-party organization.

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