Beginning with the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, Congress has enacted a series of laws establishing federal appliance and equipment standards and the Department of Energy's (DOE) authority to develop, amend, and implement standards. To implement these laws, the Appliance and Equipment Standards program manages the regulatory processes described below.

Standards for a given product may be mandated by Congress or established by DOE pursuant to statutory authority. Standards established by DOE are developed through a multistep rulemaking process that includes public participation.

Most standards rulemakings are accompanied by a concurrent test procedure rulemaking. Test procedures detail how manufacturers must test their products to certify that they comply with the applicable energy conservation standards. (42 U.S.C. 6293; 6314) DOE also uses the test procedures to determine compliance with the applicable standards. (42 U.S.C. 6295(s))

The Process Rule describes the procedures, interpretations, and policies that guide DOE in establishing new or amended energy-efficiency standards. (Appendix A to Subpart C of Part 430).

DOE is authorized to establish standards for 19 covered consumer products and 11 types of covered commercial and industrial equipment. DOE can also determine that other products and equipment are covered if they meet certain criteria. (42 U.S.C. 6292; 6311-6312)

Products covered by standards may change as manufacturers incorporate new features and designs, and test procedures may not accurately reflect actual energy use as a result of these changes. For this reason, DOE will consider petitions for waivers from test procedures. (10 CFR 430.27 (consumer products); 10 CFR 431.401 (commercial and industrial equipment)).

In addition to developing energy conservation standards and test procedures, DOE has issued regulations to assure the implementation, certification, and enforcement of energy conservation standards:

Any person as defined by 10 CFR 1003.2 can apply to DOE for an exception from a rule, regulation or DOE action having the effect of a rule.

Manufacturers with annual gross revenues that do not exceed $8 million from all operations (including the manufacture and sale of covered products) for the 12-month period preceding the date of application may apply for a temporarily exemption from all or part of an energy conservation standard. (42 U.S.C. 6295(t)).

Federal energy conservation standards generally preempt state laws or regulations concerning energy conservation testing, labeling, and standards. However, DOE can grant waivers of federal preemption for particular state laws or regulations. (42 U.S.C. 6297)

DOE and FTC share responsibility for labeling. Generally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) prescribes labeling rules for residential products and DOE prescribes labeling rules for commercial and industrial equipment. (42 U.S.C. 6294; 6315)