The Basics


Appliance and equipment standards specify the minimum energy and/or water efficiency levels of specific products. National standards apply to appliances and equipment manufactured or imported for sale into the Unites States while state standards apply to products sold or installed in a given state. Most of the products now covered by national standards were first subject to state standards. For example, California, New York and Florida refrigerator standards in the '70s and '80s were the basis of and a catalyst for the 1987 national refrigerator standards.


National standards are set either by Congress or the US Department of Energy (DOE). When Congress establishes a standard by law, DOE is charged with reviewing and updating it periodically.

State standards are usually set by legislatures but sometimes by state agencies. For example, in New York, the state legislature has directed the New York Department of State in consultation with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to develop standards. In California, the state Energy Commission develops and adopts new standards. In most other states, legislatures set standards by statute.


The national standards program covers about 60 product categories, including major home appliances such as clothes washers and refrigerators, commercial and industrial equipment such as motors and transformers, heating and air-conditioning equipment, lighting, and electronics. Click here for the full list of products covered by national standards.

In the mid 2000s, about a dozen states (Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington)  set standards for products ranging from computers to televisions to swimming pool pumps. Historically, California has taken the lead in setting state standards with many other states following suit. Since 2017, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington passed state standards for varied products. Click here for more details on state standards.


Congress, DOE, and the courts (when involved) determine when standards are set and when they become effective. All national standards must be reviewed periodically by DOE. 

Standards adopted by Congress are often based on agreements between industry and efficiency proponents. Standards set by DOE go through a public rulemaking process. DOE publishes notices, conducts analyses, and holds hearings, which are accessible to the public and open for comment. Once a final rule is published, the effective date of the standard is usually within one to five years, most often three years.