Tier 3 Energy Efficient Appliances

While the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star program remains one of the most widely-recognized programs for rating efficient appliances, it's not the only option for consumers seeking to reduce their environmental impact through their purchases. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency is an independent agency that maintains its own certification levels, or tiers, which exceed the standards set by Energy Star. These tiers are designed to make it easier for buyers to locate the most eco-friendly refrigerators, dishwashers and other appliances.

CEE Tier Overview

Woman using dishwasher.

CEE uses levels or tiers to rank appliances in terms of energy efficiency. The higher the tier, the more efficient the appliance under this system. CEE ranks appliances based on performance metrics provided by the manufacturers rather than those obtained through independent testing. The tier rankings depend on the manufacturers' reports on factors such as kilowatt hours of electricity consumed or water used per load. Energy Star provides guidance on six types of appliances, including air purifiers, washing machines, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, freezers and refrigerators, while CEE covers washing machines, room air conditioners, dishwashers and refrigerators. Both also offer information on a variety of heating and cooling equipment.

Tiers Vs. Energy Star

The U.S. Department of Energy sets minimum efficiency ratings for appliances sold in the United States. All manufacturers must meet these minimum standards. Appliances that are 20 percent more efficient than the DOE minimum standards are certified as energy efficient under the Energy Star program. CEE Tier 1 appliances are equal in efficiency to those certified through Energy Star, making them 20 percent more efficient than DOE minimums. CEE Tier 2 appliances are 25 percent more efficient than DOE minimums, or 5 percent more efficient than Energy Star. Tier 3 appliances are 30 percent more efficient than DOE minimums, or 10 percent more efficient than Energy Star.

Why Efficiency Matters

Buying Tier 3 appliances is an easy way for consumers to maximize efficiency without doing an extensive amount of research. Many manufacturers provide information of CEE tiers for their products, and CEE also lists qualifying products on its website. Choosing a Tier 3 appliance may cost more upfront, but it will typically have a lower operating cost than a less efficient appliance, saving you money over time. These appliances use less water and energy, which helps preserve limited resources and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Tier 3 Rebates

CEE does not maintain any rebates or incentive programs of its own, but many agencies rely on CEE tiers to determine whether products qualify for rebates, tax breaks or other financial incentives aimed at increasing efficiency. The CEE website lists many programs that use CEE tiers to determine rebate status, and similar programs can be found on the DOE's Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. If your appliance qualifies you for a rebate or tax break, it could help offset the higher upfront cost of your Tier 3 appliance.

About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.