While the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) had developed significant momentum updating appliance standards during President Obama’s first term, we have been disappointed in their ability to complete rulemakings of late.
Over the past year and half, DOE has failed to meet deadlines for eight separate product categories. Such delays hold up effective dates for the new standards — sacrificing energy, economic and environmental savings each and every day they are not completed. Continue reading
The saying, “you only have one chance to make a first impression” has never been so true than for the CFL. When the highly efficient light bulb was first introduced into the market two decades ago, even the most die-hard energy efficiency experts would agree the technology was probably not ready for prime time. The light output was low and the bulbs took a long time to “warm up”. Those first versions of CFL bulbs left the market frustrated. Since then, through many upgrades to the CFL bulb, the market still holds a grudge. Many are not willing to admit that the CFL of today is a completely new generation of technology that far surpasses the bulb of yesteryear. Continue reading
With the growth of home entertainment systems, home computer systems and battery-powered devices, the number of consumer electronic products we own has mushroomed in a matter of just a few years. Consumer electronics now represent the fastest growing sector of residential energy consumption — and one of the biggest areas of wasted electricity. Continue reading
You may be surprised to hear that Distribution Transformers (which include the round barrel-looking devices on telephone poles) offer significant energy savings opportunities. Although most transformers are quite efficient (efficiencies over 98%), the sheer volume of these deployed throughout the country mean even small improvements can result in big savings.
A few weeks ago, DOE published proposed efficiency standards for Distribution Transformers (This product class is made up of 3 categories of transformers; Medium-voltage liquid-immersed, Medium-voltage dry-type, Low voltage dry-type).
Besides the document containing surprising errors and misrepresentations, the proposed levels selected by the Department fell at the very low end of the levels considered. Continue reading
Congress and the President are set to pass a spending bill that will, among other things, defund the enforcement of the EISA light bulb standards for the 2012 fiscal year. While this means that the Department of Energy (DOE) will have no funding to enforce the standards until October 2012, the standards themselves remain in place.
- The details of the new provision, like the standards themselves, have been misreported. The lighting standards have not been delayed or repealed.
- Efficiency standards will remain in place with a January 1, 2012 effective date (effective date refers to date of manufacture, not sales. Retailers can still “sell through” their inventories beyond January 1st).
- This provision simply eliminates funding to DOE to enforce them.
- DOE is still trying to determine what enforcement mechanisms remain. In the meantime, EISA 2007 stipulated that state attorneys general have authority to enforce the standards in their states.
- Manufacturers (NEMA) support EISA standards and have put millions of dollars behind EE lighting (NEMA press release).
- This recent change may undermine those investments by opening the door to unscrupulous players, creating a competitive disadvantage for complying manufacturers.
- This provision will likely cause more consumer confusion than any actual marketplace non-compliance.
- Reinforces need to continue education around the standards themselves. Remember, the standards do not remove all incandescent products from the market (only the least efficient) and they do not require consumers to buy CFLs.
- Visit the LUMEN Coalition Website for more information about the lighting standards and their effect on the lighting marketplace.
To the surprise of many, water heating is the third largest energy expense in the home behind space heating and cooling. On average, water heating represents 17% of energy use in the home. Water heating in the Northeast is dominated by three main fuels; natural gas, electricity and oil. While exciting efficiency opportunities exist in products fueled by gas and oil, game changing technology is re-emerging in the electric water heating market – heat pump water heaters (HPWH). Newly designed HPWH that meet the ENERGY STAR® criteria boast efficiencies achieving 50% savings over the incumbent electric resistance water heating technology. With 5.1 million homes or a quarter of all homes in the Northeast heating their water with electricity, there is reason to be excited about the potential energy savings if new and replacement electric water heaters can migrate to heat pump technology.
With such clear advantages in efficiency you may be wondering, “Why don’t all new electric water heaters in the region have heat pump technology?” The answer to this question has some complexity. The technology itself actually has a long market history of over 30 years, marred by unsuccessful starts and stops involving poor product offerings from small niche manufacturers. Fortunately, the entrance of the major water heater manufacturers into this market a few years ago breathed new life into the technology. Higher quality products are now available, but challenges remain.
Operating HPWH in the colder climates of the Northeast present a number of additional challenges for both the performance of the technology (i.e. meeting hot water demand) as well as to consumer comfort and satisfaction (i.e. cold exhaust, noise). HPWH also carry a higher upfront cost compared to the traditional electric water heater. In order to achieve the exciting savings potential that exists through the use of these products, we must find solutions to the barriers. One of the key challenges is being able to differentiate between the “good” and the “bad.” The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) has begun to address this issue through the developments of a special cold climate specification that adequately identifies the products that can perform well in a northern climate application – the specification offers the Northeast a strong model to consider.
In order to address these and other challenges, NEEP believes regional approaches and solutions offer the Northeast the strongest likelihood of long term product uptake. To this end, NEEP has begun a project to develop a regional strategy for heat pump water heaters to ensure a successful introduction of this water heating technology. The strategy will provide guidance to important stakeholders who are crucial to making this effort work. NEEP is determined to help accelerate the market uptake of this product by identifying the key barriers and developing strategies to overcome them. The efficiency community should not let this opportunity slip by. Dissemination of poor product in the wrong applications could turn off consumers from this technology for many years and sacrifice significant amounts of energy savings in the process.
Contact Dave Lis (djlis at neep.org) for more information about the development of a Regional Strategy for Heat Pump Water Heaters.
Future appliance standards could eliminate growth in residential sector energy use through 2035, according to an analysis conducted for the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2011.
While modest improvements to the efficiency of products “covered” by the federal appliance standards efficiency program will achieve sizable savings, by adopting more aggressive standards for the products currently covered and by adding new products to the program (i.e. set-top boxes and computers), the country could flat line residential energy growth over the next 20 years!
To achieve those aggressive levels, stakeholders from local and state governments, utility companies, grassroots advocacy organizations, etc. need to make their voices heard when the Department of Energy conducts their rulemakings. Visit the Appliance Standards section of NEEP’s website for more information.