By Amy Reichel

It seems like a common trend today is to focus on ways to help save Mother Earth. Suggestions range from planting a tree, brushing teeth without running water, reusing bags, bows and wrapping paper and taking shorter showers, among numerous other ideas. All are rather simple to do, but how about when it comes to manufacturing a product that uses energy? This can be a bit more challenging but is still one of the major ways to help protect Mother Earth.

US EPA established the ENERGY STAR program in 1992 for energy-sufficient computers. This program has now grown to include numerous categories of different products for homes, workplaces, etc. One product now covered under ENERGY STAR is water coolers. Not just any water cooler can become EPA ENERGY STAR certified, however. The water coolers that fall under this certification are:

  • Bottled water coolers (including compartment-type)
  • Bottle-less water coolers (including POU and air-source water generating units)

Units that provide pressurized water and are not free standing (i.e., wall mounted, undersink or otherwise buildingintegrated), however, are not eligible for ENERGY STAR.

Manufacturers of water coolers that do seek the ENERGY STAR certification can now go through the Water Quality Association (WQA) for the process. Earlier this year, US EPA approved WQA as a licensed, certified body to certify products in accordance with ENERGY STAR specifications and the ENERGY STAR products certification system. When manufacturers decide to take the plunge and get water coolers certified, they don’t need to worry about free-falling into a pit of confusion and a lengthy certification process. WQA will guide them through the steps that must be followed with both WQA and EPA to obtain certification as quickly and smoothly as possible. To begin the certification process, interested parties will need to fill out the necessary paperwork, which includes the Partnership Agreement to US EPA (without this you cannot submit your project to US EPA), WQA’s agreement and WQA’s ENERGY STAR data sheet. Once WQA and US EPA receive these documents, WQA will be able to provide an estimate of how long the initial evaluation will take and what other information will be needed for the application process.

The next step in the process is determining the qualifications to the ENERGY STAR specifications for your water cooler. This depends on the category that your product falls under:

• Cold-only units: dispense cold water only; have a refrigeration cycle.
• Cook and cold units: dispense both cold and room temperature water; have a refrigeration cycle.
• Hot and cold units: dispense both hot and cold water (some units may have a third, room-temperature tap); have both an electric resistance heater and refrigeration cycle.

When it comes to the stand-by energy consumption (the required energy to maintain cold and/or hot water at appropriate dispensing temperatures with no water being withdrawn), the different units are put under certain test conditions to test their stand-by energy use (see Table 1).

A sample of each model that is intended to be marketed and labeled as ENERGY STAR will need to be tested and will need to meet the requirements to be qualified as ENERGY STAR. WQA will send a form informing the requestor of the appropriate amount of test units that will need to be submitted for testing. The test samples can be tested at either one of the two options for testing laboratories:

  1. Any laboratories US EPA recognizes as currently meeting their conditions and criteria to become a recognized laboratory for the ENERGY STAR program
  2. Any laboratories that participate in WQA’s witnessed or supervisor manufacturer’s testing laboratories program (these lab results will be submitted to ENERGY STAR)

Testing at a witnessed manufacturer’s testing laboratory (WMTL) means that WQA’s Technical Manager will witness the testing. The lab will prove that the parameters of the test were maintained throughout the entire 24-hour test period. Testing at a supervised manufacturer’s testing laboratory (SMTL) means that the laboratory is supervised by WQA, which includes reviews, audits and periodic witness testing. A laboratory becomes a SMTL by being a part of WQA’s WMTL for at least two years for testing water coolers. WQA will conduct annual audits to make sure the laboratory is in compliance with ISO/IEC 17025, unless the laboratory has a third-party ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation. Also, WQA must witness at least one water cooler test a year.

Once testing is complete, the ENERGY STAR partner (which must be on the correspondence) or the testing laboratory will submit the test data to US EPA. Performance parameters will then be assessed to determine whether the water cooler meets the restrictions described in the ENERGY STAR product specification. WQA will then send a report to the requestor with the outcome of the initial evaluation. If there were certain requirements that were not met, the requestor will be informed of which aspects are not in compliance. Once it is shown that corrective action has been taken to meet the requirements within the time specified, WQA will repeat only the necessary aspects of the initial evaluation. If all the requirements are met, or the nonconformities have been addressed, the water cooler will be submitted for attestation through WQA’s Gold Seal Program for ENERGY STAR. If attestation is approved, certification will be granted and will last for the life of the product, as long as requirements continue to be met. The ENERGY STAR-certified products will then be listed on both the WQA and US EPA websites. But that is not the end of the process.

Products must meet all product performance parameters from the ENERGY STAR product specification annually. This means WQA will inform requestors which models will be required to go through testing. WQA determines which models to test by following the requirements listed below:

• At least 10 percent of all ENERGY STAR-qualified certified models or models for which US EPA has received qualified product data (determined randomly)
• If there is a significant amount of product failures during testing, US EPA may increase the number of models that need to be tested in the future.

Products will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • From certified ENERGY STAR-qualified models
  • At least 50 percent of tested models will be randomly selected
  • The remaining models will be made up of referrals from US EPA, along with models selected in consideration of the following factors:
    — Product classes from ENERGY STAR partners in which models previously failed verification testing
    — Referrals from third parties (consumers, consumer groups, regulatory agencies regarding the accuracy of ratings, etc.)
    — Models with the highest sales volume (if this data is available)

If there are no recommendations or referrals, however, up to 100 percent of models to be tested can be randomly selected. Models are retrieved for testing from both off the store shelf and warehouse stock. When choosing models off the shelf, these models have to be available for purchase in the open market and from a reputable and recognizable retailer. Models from an unknown Internet source or a flea market are frowned upon and will not be chosen. When choosing models from a warehouse, they will literally be chosen from a storage warehouse.

This is the certification process when it comes to ENERGY STAR and using WQA to achieve that certification. There will still be small details or technical items that may not be covered in this article, but that’s to be expected. Certification is a very detail-oriented process. Right now, saving the Earth is a very big trend and one that doesn’t appear to be fading anytime soon. Like people say: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” So get those water coolers certified and keep Mother Earth happy!

About the author

Amy Reichel is the Sales and Marketing Associate for WQA’s Gold
Seal Product Certification Program. She has been with the organization
for over a year and a half. You may contact Reichel regarding product
certification via email, areichel@wqa.org.

 

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