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Upping Efficiency Standards, Lowering Utility Bills

September 2, 2010 - 4:17pm

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Purchasing energy-efficient appliances is one of the easiest and most important ways consumers have to save money, reduce their electricity consumption and help cut down on carbon pollution. We use appliances every day – to cook our food, cool our homes, heat our water and clean our clothes. In fact, for a typical U.S. family, heating and cooling and water heating account for about 50 percent of utility bills. Home appliances and other electronics account for another 20 percent of an average American household’s utility bills. There’s enormous potential here to reduce energy bills and energy use while addressing U.S. energy security.

As part of its efforts to help consumers purchase energy-efficient appliances that will save them money, the Department of Energy sets minimum energy efficiency levels for various appliances found in American homes and businesses. Under the Obama Administration, the Department has acted quickly to establish energy efficiency standards for more than twenty different products. These standards will save consumers between $250 and $300 billion on their energy bills through 2030.

A little background for you – through the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA), the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT), and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), Congress set deadlines for DOE to establish energy-efficient appliance standards. However, when President Obama took office, the Department still had not established standards for 15 of the 22 product categories outlined by EPCA and EPACT, as well as a number of additional product categories mandated by EISA. In February 2009, President Obama issued a memorandum to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, directing the Department to set these critical standards. Taking up the charge, DOE went to work and has met all of its deadlines since the President came to office:

  • March 2009: 14 consumer and commercial products with standards prescribed in EISA 2007, including dishwashers, general service incandescent lamps and residential clothes washers
  • April 2009: Kitchen ranges and ovens
  • July 2009: General service fluorescent lamps and incandescent reflector lamps
  • July 2009: Commercial heating, air-conditioning and water-heating equipment
  • August 2009: Refrigerated beverage vending machines
  • December 2009: Commercial clothes washers
  • February 2010: Small electric motors
  • March 2010: Residential water heaters, direct heating equipment and pool heaters

The Department of Energy is continuing its work developing appliance standards with input from the public and the private sector. Through the end of next year, the Department is scheduled to issue final rules for 11 more appliances. The next set of standards covers some of the highest energy-consuming appliances in the homes, including refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers, air conditioners and microwaves. These upcoming standards are expected to save consumers and businesses another $250 to $300 billion over the next twenty years.

For additional low-cost energy saving ideas on how to save money on your energy bills, check out www.EnergyStar.gov or www.energysavers.gov.

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