It really depends which product is being deemed worthy or not of the Energy Star label. For example, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are judged, among other things, on their overall efficiency, their total lifetime or how long they stay lit, their lumen maintenance or how long they are able to maintain their brightness, the safety and reliability of the product, and mercury control standards. Washing machines must have a capacity of 1.6 cubic feet or more, be a front or top loader style of machine, and meet specific criteria for the amount of energy and water used in each load (see citation below for specific formulas). Overall, it seems that Energy Star seeks to label only products that are more energy efficient than standard products, deliver quality performance, are long-lasting, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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