Back to Basics, Energy Management and Lighting, Green Building

Back to Basics: How Businesses Can Participate in the ENERGY STAR Program

Back to Basics is an article series that highlights important, but possibly overlooked, information facilities management professionals should know. 

Facility professionals looking to have the most energy-efficient facilities should consider purchasing ENERGY STAR products and getting certified through the ENERGY STAR program. Sites eligible to participate in the program include manufacturing, industrial, commercial, and leased office properties.

ENERGY STAR, a voluntary U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program, provides environmental benefits and financial value through energy efficiency. The EPA manages ENERGY STAR products, as well as ENERGY STAR home, commercial, and industrial programs. Thousands of businesses and organizations, including commercial and industrial properties, participate in the ENERGY STAR program. In fact, 40% of Fortune 500 companies participate in ENERGY STAR.

ENERGY STAR recognition is an annual program requiring recertification. Companies participating in the program help:

  • Protect the climate
  • Improve air quality
  • Protect public health
  • Save themselves money in energy costs

Companies can easily perform cost-benefit analyses to determine if ENERGY STAR certification is right for them.

On average, ENERGY STAR-certified buildings use 35% less energy than buildings nationwide.

Companies that participate in ENERGY STAR have buildings with lower operating costs and can benefit through higher rental rates due to increased asset value. These properties lease faster than their counterparts not participating in the ENERGY STAR program. Sales and rentals of ENERGY STAR buildings can be up to 16% more.

Owners and operators of small businesses are encouraged to learn about specific ways they can save energy and money by clicking here.

Companies can promote their commitment to the environment through the installation of blue ENERGY STAR decals on their business windows (as shown above) and in literature.


Facility professionals of all types can take important steps to save energy for their facilities with ENERGY STAR-certified products. These products, designed for businesses, meet strict energy efficiency requirements and include everything from coffee makers to heating and cooling systems.

ENERGY STAR-certified products are readily available and can be purchased at websites and appliance stores—just look for the ENERGY STAR logo. Energy-efficient upgrades using these products may also qualify for federal tax credits.

Products with the ENERGY STAR logo must go through a three-step process:

  1. Testing: Manufacturers must test their products through an EPA-recognized laboratory. Sometimes manufacturers must show there is no performance compromises made in order to save energy.
  2. Review: Product test results are reviewed by a third-party EPA-recognized certification body. The body, made up of impartial organizations accredited to international standards for operations, ensures that the products meet program requirements.
  3. Additional testing: Select products may go through additional testing to ensure they meet ENERGY STAR requirements.

While the full ENERGY STAR product finder has a variety of items, facilities professionals should concentrate on the products applicable to their businesses and organizations, such as:

  • Computers and servers
  • Office equipment
  • Vending machines
  • Water coolers
  • Commercial food service equipment
  • Laboratory-grade refrigerators and freezers

Manufacturing and Industrial Sites

Facilities professionals of both manufacturing plants and industrial sites can also achieve ENERGY STAR certification.

ENERGY STAR allows certain types of manufacturing plants to be eligible for the ENERGY STAR Certified Facility designation. There are different requirements based on the type of plant. There are 800 manufacturing companies participating in the program.

Industrial sites can participate in the ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry Plan. There is an energy performance score of 1-100 based on actual plant data, which looks at energy per unit of production at the whole plant level. Each industrial plant is compared to similar other plants to determine this score. Industrial sites should take steps to build a successful energy management program to earn this certification. About 600 sites have been recognized with this certification.

Leased Office Sites

Organizations that lease offices can also participate in the ENERGY STAR program by following eligibility requirements as part of the ENERGY STAR Tenant Space program.

Those able to participate as a tenant space include:

  • General administrative office
  • Financial office
  • Non-diagnostic medical office
  • Data center

This program asks facilities management professionals of leased office spaces to:

  • Estimate energy use
  • Meter energy use
  • Be efficient in energy use
  • Compare use to a targeted amount

Commercial Sites

Facilities professionals who manage businesses providing goods and services to the general public, as well as educational, governmental, and places of worship, should follow the commercial requirements. These include, but are not limited to, hospitals, hotels, schools, retail stores, bank branches, offices, and churches. Warehouses and data centers are also considered commercial sites for ENERGY STAR purposes. These facilities would be eligible for the ENERGY STAR Certification for Buildings.

Owners and designers of commercial buildings that have a 50% reduction in energy use can get tax deductions of $1.80/square foot while those taking qualifying measures to reduce energy can save $0.60/square foot.

The best way that commercial facilities professionals can save energy is by first benchmarking their building’s energy use. This comparison should be made in reference to:

  • Similar buildings
  • Past consumption by consulting previous energy bills
  • Reference performance level, a recommended benchmark metric for all buildings

The Portfolio Manager, which is part of the ENERGY STAR website, can help commercial facilities professionals make these comparisons. Approximately 270,000 commercial properties across the nation, with more than 25 billion square feet of floor space, have utilized Portfolio Manager. The program can rank a building’s energy use on a 1 to 100 scale, with 50 being a median score.

It allows facilities commercial facility managers to understand:

  • Whether energy and money are being wasted with antiquated building systems
  • Energy-saving practices that should be implemented
  • How to allocate money and maximize returns in energy efficiency
  • Verify that new practices result in reduced energy use and money savings
  • Generate performance data reports
  • Earn ENERGY STAR recognition if the score is 75 or higher
  • Measure and track water use, waste and materials, and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Implement a comprehensive management program

Commercial facilities professionals who have a score less than 75, or if they want to increase the score even higher, should consider the following:

  • Upgrade lighting—Convert to Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lighting
  • Maintenance best practices—Reduce operating costs through operational improvements, shutting off unneeded equipment, and review improvements after implementation
  • Produce a checklist of energy-saving measures including low-cost measures and rapid payback measures regarding HVAC, food service equipment, office equipment, and lighting and operations
  • Reduce Information Technology (IT) energy use through smart purchasing and energy consumption practices
  • Water, Waste, and Renewable Energy—reduce facility water use, improve waste management practices, and install or purchase renewable energy sources

Step-by-step detailed instructions to apply for the certification are located here. In general, they include:

  • Entering information about the property
  • Providing contact information about those who utilize the facility
  • Entering award information
  • Reviewing eligibility details
  • Entering site visit information


Those seeking to learn more about the ENERGY STAR certification process can take online training classes. This training would allow facility professionals taking care of commercial properties, leased offices, manufacturing, and industrial sites to learn more of the specifics of the program and certified products. ENERGY STAR not only helps you save energy, but also helps the bottom line.

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