In an increasingly climate-conscious world, there has been a major push to improve the ways we use electricity and the efficiency of our appliances and machinery. This increase in efficiency reduces carbon emissions and other forms of pollution. It also often claims to save money by reducing power consumption as well as decreasing excess carbon emissions.
Though increasing energy efficiency in appliances helps with climate change and carbon emissions, the main question many consumers have is: do appliance energy efficiency standards actually save you money?
Though there are a lot of opinions on the matter, information released in the 2015 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Year-End Series Reviewing 2015 Energy Developments shows many of the energy efficiency improvements and how they save money. Though the primary standard discussed here is for businesses, there is also information on how these standards save everyone money.
What is Appliance Energy Efficiency?
Appliance energy efficiency addresses how well appliances use the energy received. For example, if an item wasted 5 watts of energy of every for 10 watts it used, it wouldn’t be very efficient; but if that efficiency were increased, you would get the same result for less energy use. This saves you and everyone around you money.
Through careful negotiations between the Department of Energy (DOE), manufacturers, and consumer and efficiency advocates, commercial rooftop unit efficiency standards have recently been increased. This, among other recent standards, could make a significant impact on energy use and carbon emission reduction. By itself, it will save twice as much energy as the previous standard and will reduce carbon emissions by 885 million metric tons over 30 years, the equivalent of 186 million cars or 232 coal-fired plants.
While these particular standards are primarily for businesses, there are many others that directly affect everyone, ranging from refrigerators to dishwashers. Even with the efficiency
gains over the previous few decades, there are still some who do not see the savings they can take advantage of.
Why Should We Have These Standards?
These standards ensure a baseline energy efficiency for particular products to reduce the effects of inefficient appliances and machines. This is beneficial in making sure that everyone gets the best they can out of particular systems. Even businesses get benefits from these standards, making significant savings on power and increasing profits.
These monetary benefits do not even address the environmental concerns, with considerable decreases in carbon emissions. These, too, help save money, though not in an immediate sense; the decrease in pollutants reduces future costs of combating them. As such, these standards not only save you money in the short term but also in the long term.
These shorter-term savings for businesses and everyday Americans can be significant, reaching many billions of dollars a year in addition to the large reduction in carbon emissions.
So How Much Can I Save?
Giving a hard figure is difficult, as it would depend on your appliances, energy use, and your building size. However, with the update to the DOE standards—especially the changes for air-conditioning/warming furnace efficiency—businesses will save 50 billion dollars over the course of 30 years. The reduction in power use will be equivalent to a year’s worth of coal for the entire USA power industry over the same amount of time. Clearly, this is a significant decrease. This figure assumes that no other improvements will be made over that time, and this is only for one category of appliances.
Though this particular efficiency standard does not impact the money of everyday people directly, there are many standards that focus on the appliances around the home. During the same time as the commercial rooftop unit standard, standards for fans, walk-in coolers and freezers, residential air conditioners, pool pumps, and miscellaneous refrigeration equipment were also finalized.
One example of the benefits of these standards is the refrigerator. A modern refrigerator uses a mere quarter of the power of one from 1973 while having 20% more storage and being half the price. On the whole, since 1987, implemented standards have improved the energy efficiency of clothes washers (70% less energy use), dishwashers (40% less energy use), and air conditioners (50% less energy use), to name a few. In 2014, this saved American consumers $60 billion and reduced carbon emissions by 2.3 billion tons, the equivalent of 500 million cars used over a year.
It is easy to see how, even with rising energy prices, these increases in efficiency help to save you money while you go about your day-to-day life without negatively impacting your lifestyle.
Unfortunately, some people do not see it that way, arguing that these standards stifle manufacturing businesses.
Opposition to Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards
Despite the savings that these standards produce, there is still a surprising amount of opposition to them. In 2015 there was an effort to repeal all energy efficiency standards, as well as a more concentrated attempt to block DOE’s efficiency standards on light bulbs, ceiling fans, and furnaces. You cannot tell the energy efficiency of an appliance by eye, so removing these standards could cause numerous problems. Of these, the standards for all were protected—with the exception of light bulbs.
It is important that you make sure to tell your elected officials that these standards are a significant issue and that you support them. Despite what many seem to think, as stated above, these standards offer tangible savings to businesses and are well worth the effort of increasing standards for appliances. These benefits are felt even more so in smaller businesses with tighter profit margins.
Despite efforts to overturn these standards, energy efficiency standards have stood the test of time, saving people of the USA over $60 billion in the last few years alone. The Department of Energy continues to update standards constantly, improving energy savings for everyone, leading to monetary savings. Protecting these standards should be a priority for everyone, as everyone uses electricity in their lives.
So to answer the question—do appliance energy efficiency standards save you money? Yes, they do, and they will continue to do so in the future.