Consumer Reports is offering five tips on how to transform the U.S. from an energy hog to a global energy efficiency leader.

The advice along with seven ideas on how to decrease household energy consumption grew out of a nationwide survey the magazine conducted after recent data showed that U.S. per capita consumption of energy has hit the lowest level in 41 years in 2009, yet Americans still use more energy than people in most other countries.

Why? Because it “turns out that it’s harder than it should be” to be energy efficient,” the magazine said in reporting on the outcome of its survey of 1,536 U.S. homeowners and crafting the tips from the responses.

Here are Consumer Reports’ five recommendations for making the country a leader in energy efficiency and conservation:

  1. Strengthen Energy Star standards. The Environmental Protection Agency should focus on toughening Energy Star qualifications.
  2. Bring product testing into the 21st century. Saying it found that some appliances perform differently under Department of Energy test conditions than they would in a home, Consumer Reports urged that testing be continually updated and strengthened to keep pace with product changes.
  3. Take the hassle out of incentives. The survey found 91 percent homeowners made a purchase or improvement that qualified for a government rebate or tax credit, but only a quarter said took advantage of an incentive program. Reasons included belief that their purchase didn’t qualify, confusion over rules and a perception that the amount of the incentive wasn’t worth the trouble.
  4. Adopt what works abroad — such as the European Union’s standards for standby power consumption (the amount of energy an appliance consumes when it is not being used) and Australia’s field testing of appliances.
  5. Turn up the heat on the industry. This would include stiffer fines against manufacturers that don’t abide by rules for energy efficiency. More media scrutiny of violators.

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