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issue: December 2009 APPLIANCE Magazine

Feature: Quality Testing & Certification
Certified Green


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Third-party testing is becoming an important tool for keeping faith with consumers.

Energy efficiency is widely seen as the top trend in appliances worldwide. Simin Zhou, vice president and general manager of Underwriters Laboratories’ (UL) global appliances and HVAC business, sees a growing global need for third-party verification of energy efficiency. “We expect that governments as well as consumers will want more validation of producer efficiency claims in the future,” she tells APPLIANCE magazine.

Mark It Green

Intertek Group plc and Intertek Testing Services (Boxborough, MA, U.S.; www.intertek-etlsemko.com) point to studies showing that consumers continue to support environmentally responsible products but they are looking for environmental certification marks or labels.

“We are starting to see more scrutiny by regulators of green labeling and retailers are increasing pressure on suppliers to ensure that product performance claims are based on fact and independently verified,” says Ruud Overbeek, PhD, vice president of Intertek’s Health and Environmental Services. OEMs increasingly seek outside verification. “They want to protect their brand, not only if their green claims are found to be overstated, but also if their supply chain is found to be compromised.”

A few months ago Intertek launched a new design for its global Green Leaf Mark. The Green Leaf Mark is used by customers to indicate that a product conforms to multiple existing environmental regulations, such as RoHS, REACH, and Eco Design requirements. This one mark can be used on product packaging, in point of purchase displays, product advertising, and in product literature to explain a product’s environmental credentials.

Simplifying Certification

Despite a growing list of standards to meet, appliance engineers are finding ways to make the product development process itself more efficient. They have allies in the testing agencies themselves, which have developed global relationships and systems that allow an agency in one country to facilitate the certification of products for many worldwide markets.

CSA Group is exemplary of this evolution. What started out as the Canadian Standards Association now has offices, testing labs, and affiliates in 60-plus countries. Its CSA International division (Cleveland, OH, U.S.; www.csa-international.org) has certification marks that are recognized in Canada, the U.S., and worldwide.

CSA’s OnSpeX division (www.onspex.com) provides consumer product evaluation for retailers and manufacturers. Earlier this year its laboratory in Shanghai received accreditation by China National Accreditation Service to the ISO 17025 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories standard. OnSpeX vice president and general manager Sue Dempsey said the accreditation was significant for customers. “Having a qualified laboratory so close to the manufacturers and factories can mean faster turnaround times for manufacturers and lower costs for transportation. It can also shorten time to market for retailers and manufacturers for new and innovative products.”

 

Better Certification Tools

Big energy users in the home, and commercially, are heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems. HVAC/R OEMs are under tremendous pressure to achieve ever-increasing efficiency levels and are turning to third-party providers to verify their in-house test results. UL (Northbrook, IL, U.S.; www.ul.com) recently opened an expanded HVAC/R Performance Test Center in Plano, TX, U.S. The bigger facility and new equipment have doubled UL’s capacity and enhanced its HVAC/R performance testing capabilities.

The facility’s seven dual-cell psychrometric testing rooms allow testing in environments with precise temperature and humidity control. In fact, the facility’s comprehensive capabilities allow it to test to all major national and international standards for safety and performance, including UL, IEC, AHRI, and ASHRAE, as well as customer-specific energy-efficiency requirements.

Credible Test

When an OEM says a product is efficient, it had better be efficient. The unfavorable PR that comes from inaccurate efficiency labels can be costly to address and detrimental to consumer brand perception. Appliance labeling programs themselves have suffered recent blows to their credibility.

In Europe, appliance association CECED and several other organizations partnered to create the Appliance Testing for Energy Label Evaluation (Atlete) project, with the primary objective of improving energy labeling control. Atlete says some EU member states fail to control accurate labeling.

The U.S. Energy Star program has itself come under fire, and from within. “Significant control weaknesses” in the EPA’s management of the Energy Star program were identified two years ago in an EPA Office of Inspector General audit. But another audit in October of 2009 showed that none of the recommended improvements were in place.

As a result of its most recent dressing down, Energy Star should begin to formalize testing and reporting procedures. That’s certainly what the Inspector General wants to happen. “Because of the potential to mislead consumers and waste energy,” the 2009 audit states, “we concluded that independent third-party testing of products is an important control to prevent the sale of products that are not compliant with Energy Star specifications.”

 

 

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