EPA defends Energy Star
The Environmental Protection Agency, which runs the Energy Star program, has lashed out at an article in Consumer Reports titled “Energy Star has lost some luster.” In a statement on its Web site, the EPA called the article misleading and incomplete.
The Consumer Reports article, published in its October issue, carries the secondary headline: “The program saves energy but hasn’t kept up with the times.” The writers described out-of-date testing procedures and misleading labels on Energy Star products, which the magazine’s tests showed were not as efficient as advertised.
The EPA quickly posted a response at www.energystar.gov.
“The Consumer Reports article misses the basic point of the Energy Star program,” according to the statement. “Energy Star is designed to help consumers find energy-efficient products that will cost effectively help save them money and help them protect the environment.”
Further, the EPA charged that the magazine confused the minimum standards program operated by the Department of Energy, the Energy Guide label overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Energy Star labeling program administered by the EBPA and the DOE.
At Consumer Reports, deputy editor Steven H. Saltzman said the purpose of the article was not to attack specific products, but rather to point out that testing could be improved.
“We believe in the Energy Star program,” Saltzman told Home Channel News. “We want it to be as effective as possible. It needs to be updated.”
For instance, some refrigerators are being tested for energy consumption with ice makers turned off. On this point the EPA concurred, but pointed out that the test procedure is used to qualify any refrigerator for sale in the United States. “Consumer Reports did raise an important issue with the federal test procedure for refrigerators,” according to the EPA.
The Consumer Reports article recommends, among other things, a graded qualifying system, as opposed to the current pass or fail system of Energy Star, and better federal policing — or “spot checks” — of Energy Star-qualified products.
Energy Star is a 16-year-old federal voluntary program administered by the DOE and EPA that covers more than 50 product categories. Jean Niemi, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, a major retailer of Energy Star products, expressed satisfaction with the program. “We remain confident in the EPA’s Energy Star program to help guide the American consumer to purchasing more energy-efficient products,” she told Home Channel News.
Former Westlake execs open True Value store
Former Westlake Ace Hardware executives Brian Richards and Scott Westlake have formed their own True Value hardware chain, called SCW. The first store opened Aug. 30 in Overland Park, Kan.
Called Nuts and Bolts, the store is 51,000 square feet, about three times the size of a traditional True Value outlet. A second, 28,000-square-foot Nuts and Bolts is set to open sometime in September in Independence, Mo.
Both stores are based on the Destination True Value format, which emphasizes small projects and offers a broad product selection in core hardware categories that can be adapted to the needs of the individual store.
In addition to the traditional hardware departments, Nuts and Bolts offers a 4,000-square-foot customer service center where customers can get glass and keys cut, window screens repaired and knifes and scissors sharpened. The store has about 40 employees.
Richards, the company president, spent more than 30 years with Westlake — a 90-store chain with stores in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico — before partnering with Scott Westlake, the grandson of Westlake Ace’s founder.
Toll Brothers posts third-quarter loss
Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s largest home builders with a specialty in luxury homes, saw third-quarter losses of $29.3 million, plummeting from earnings of $26.5 million in the same period last year.
The Horsham, Pa.-based builder recorded a hefty $139.4 million pre-tax charge, $33.4 million of which was attributed to failed joint venture agreements. For the first nine months of the fiscal year, the builder has generated losses totaling $219 million.
Home-building revenues totaled $1.24 billion in the third quarter, down 31 percent from $1.8 billion in the same period last year.
Robert Toll, chairman and CEO for Toll Brothers, pulled no punches in his assessment of the results: “We are now completing the third year of the worst housing market since we started in 1967,” he said.
“Weak consumer confidence has kept many potential buyers from taking advantage of the current buyers’ market,” he noted. “We believe that most big public builders have sold off most of their inventory, which eventually should help stabilize home prices. However, we currently have to contend with foreclosures as the new low-priced competition.”