The EPA and the DOE recently proposed an extension to the Energy Star Qualified Products program with a "top tier" designation for products that surpass the more common levels of energy efficiency within their categories. This new program element would identify and promote super-efficient products, where they exist, to a target audience of early adopters who research and purchase the highest efficiency products available.

In developing the proposal for this highest-performance product tier, the EPA and the DOE conducted extensive research, including face-to-face interviews and focus groups, to assess consumer interest, as well as the demographics of the target audience and its purchasing habits. The agencies also investigated whether a top-tier recognition would undermine the existing Energy Star brand.

The findings are promising. According to the proposal report, consumers don't believe that a top-tier recognition would harm the Energy Star brand. In fact, they indicate a high level of trust in the program's ability to identify the most efficient products. Also, a small subset of consumers is willing to pay a premium for the most efficient products available. However, the agencies' research also found that consumers favored designations such as "most efficient" and "maximum efficiency" over "top tier" and "best in class."

The comment period on this proposed program extension is now open and will accept feedback through Oct. 29. Download a PDF of the proposal for comment.

The EPA also will hold a webinar at 2 p.m. on Oct. 19 to discuss the current findings of the consumer research and focus groups. Register for the webinar.

Stephani L. Miller is Associate Web Editor for Custom Home.