Sacramento, Calif.--Think of it as a Top Ten list from the Department of Energy.

The Department of Energy will try to roll out a special label for Energy Star-rated products -- the Most Efficient Energy Star label -- that rank toward the top of their category, said Kathleen Hogan, the deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in the DOE, during a talk at the Emerging Technologies Summit taking place this week in Sacramento.

"There is a lot of interest among consumers in finding out which products are the most efficient," she said. The agency proposed the badge earlier this year and has just completed the period for collecting comments from the industry and the public. If all goes well, the Most Efficient label will come out for some product categories next year, including, possibly, water heaters, TVs and appliances.

That's not the only change afoot at the program. Despite the fact that the Energy Star label is somewhat familiar to the public, it isn't everywhere. The DOE does not require the badge on a number of product categories: household fans, compressors, pumps, ovens, kilns. The program has yet to establish jurisdiction over computers, cordless phones, water coolers, air purifiers. It also doesn't rate set-top boxes and cable boxes, which are sizeable energy hogs because of the spinning hard drives inside. Cisco, the networking giant that has refashioned itself into a green infrastructure company, makes a huge number of these products. Hogan didn't promise that any of these products would have Energy Star ratings, but the fact that she listed them out makes one wonder.

The EERE and the DOE also continue to conduct research to improve the performance of appliances that are already regulated by Energy Star. The DOE, for instance, is working with Westinghouse on a refrigerator that would use only 250 kilowatt-hours a year, or about half of the power consumed by the efficient refrigerators on the market this year. (Twenty-eight years ago, before California passed regulations on appliance efficiency, refrigerators consumed close to 2,000 kilowatt hours a year, Art Rosenfeld, the California Energy Commission and the father of energy efficiency, told us during a meeting.)

This new fridge may only cost $100 more than a conventional fridge. The power reductions in part are helped by a variable compressor.

General Electric and the DOE, meanwhile, are tinkering with a heat pump water heater, which would heat water with help from the energy in the ambient air. Purdue University, meanwhile, is examining a heat pump water heater for cold climates.

Tags: appliances, computers, department of energy, efficiency, energy star, heaters, household, networking, refrigerators, set top boxes, windows