Appliances, equipment and lighting account for 85-90% of residential and over 90% of commercial energy use.[i] Appliance and equipment efficiency standards require products such as refrigerators, electric motors, and air conditioners to meet specific minimum efficiency requirements thereby reducing energy use and consequently saving purchasers money while improving the environment. Standards prohibit the production and sale of appliances and other energy-consuming products less efficient than the minimum requirements, causing manufacturers to focus on how to incorporate energy-efficient technologies into their mainstream products at minimum cost. In doing so, standards provide all consumers with a minimum level of efficiency performance, making energy-efficient products more affordable and more widely available.
Appliance and equipment efficiency standards have been among the most successful government policies for improving energy efficiency in the United States. Historically, states have been the testing ground for appliance standards. Successful implementation at the state-level has often been followed by manufacturers and efficiency supporters negotiating consensus standards that are then recommended to Congress for adoption. By law, DOE must periodically review all standards created by Congress to determine if they should be strengthened to reflect technology and market changes.
The success of appliance and equipment efficiency standards is clear: for example, a typical new refrigerator today uses 70% less energy than a typical refrigerator sold in the early 1970s. Moreover, ACEEE estimates that in 2020, existing standards enacted up to and including products in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 will:
Developing and updating appliance and equipment efficiency standards is a continuous process. For example, EISA 2007 contained new standards for 10 products (including light bulbs, clothes washers, dishwashers, and electric motors). Meanwhile, the list of products for which the DOE is required to develop new standards by January 2013 is comprised predominantly of products with existing standards in need of updating. Successful standards programs, however, require good testing methods – ones that are unambiguous, easy to use, and relevant to how products are used. The U.S.needs greater investment in revising testing methods and standards which encourage new approaches (e.g., heat pump and solar water heaters), and to assure that standards are based upon typical actual use patterns.