Get ready for new appliance standards

National appliance standards for 26 common products could slash total U.S. electricity use by over 1,900 terawatt-hours by 2030.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) say new standards could put a big crimp in U.S. energy use.

The report, Ka-BOOM! The Power of Appliance Standards: Opportunities for New Federal Appliance and Equipment Standards, takes the first word in its title from a quote by Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu describing the speed with which energy efficiency can be achieved: "Appliance standards, ka-BOOM, can be had right away."

The new standards will affect many common household and business products - ranging from furnaces to water heaters to air conditioners to fluorescent light bulbs. In many cases, standards first set in the 1980s or 1990s are due to be updated and can now be strengthened thanks to technological improvements. Cumulative savings from already existing standards total about $2,800 per household; savings from new standards due in the next few years could save an additional $1,100 per household over the life of the affected products.

"Standards pack a big bang for national energy savings, but for consumers and businesses they silently save energy and cash," said Max Neubauer, lead report author and a researcher at ACEEE. "Buyers rarely know their purchases are affected, but they can take those savings to the bank."

The new report enumerates the national savings that can be achieved from new and updated standards. By sticking to its schedule for all 26 products and setting strong standards, DOE can deliver enormous benefits for the entire nation:

Over 1,900 terawatt-hours saved by 2030, or roughly enough power to meet the total electricity needs of every American household for 18 months.
About 65,000 megawatts of peak demand savings in 2030, or around 6% of total U.S. generating capacity projected for 2030.
About $123 billion in net present value benefits from products purchased through 2030.

About half the total energy savings would come from new standards for fluorescent lights, water heaters, home furnaces, furnace fans, and refrigerators. However, it is the combination of all twenty-six standards, including the large and small ones, that packs the biggest energy savings bang.

Individual consumers stand to benefit considerably from strengthened standards. For the 26 products reviewed in the report, the average payback is 3.1 years, with an average benefit-cost ratio of 4 to 1. That is, the lifetime savings of a product are, on average, four times greater than the upfront incremental costs for efficiency improvements.

The federal appliance standards program, in effect since 1987, sets minimum appliance, equipment, and lighting efficiency standards for products manufactured in or imported to the U.S. Savings from existing standards are projected to be about 273 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010 or more than a 7% reduction in projected U.S. electricity consumption in that year. Even greater gains could have been achieved if the DOE had met the nearly two dozen legal deadlines for updated standards that lapsed between 1994 and 2004.

Ka-BOOM! The Power of Appliance Standards: Opportunities for New Federal Appliance and Equipment Standards is available for free download at or a hard copy can be purchased for $35 plus $5 postage and handling from ACEEE Publications, 529 14th St, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20045, phone: 202-507-4000, fax: 202-429-2248,
e-mail: [email protected].

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