Issue 9  

February 2012

DOE Standards: Ballasts, Microwaves, and Transformers 
Two recent DOE standards will deliver big cost-effective energy savings, but a third leaves large cost-effective savings on the table. The fluorescent ballast final rule ushers in very large energy and cost savings and the microwave oven proposed standards will significantly reduce standby energy waste for this product. Disappointingly, the proposed standards for distribution transformers will only achieve a fraction of this standards' potential. Read on for details on these and other topics.
Big Savings from New Ballast Standard

fluorescent lamp ballast
DOE published a final rule for fluorescent ballasts in November 2011, locking in very big savings. According to DOE, the new standards will save 2.7-5.6 quads of energy over 30 years--an amount equivalent to the annual energy use of approximately 14 million to 28 million homes. The standards will yield cumulative savings for consumers and businesses of $12.8-$21.6 billion at a 3% discount rate (the range is mostly due to different assumptions about the penetration of LEDs). The standard levels in the final rule generally reflect the most-efficient commercially available ballasts. The huge savings are due in large part to a significant expansion of scope. While the current standards for fluorescent lamp ballasts only apply to ballasts that are designed to operate certain types of T12 (1 1/2 inch diameter) tube lamps, the final rule includes ballasts that operate T5 and T8 tube lamps (5/8 and 1 inch diameter respectively), residential ballasts, and ballasts that operate lamps used in outdoor signs.
Microwave Oven Proposal Takes a Bite Out of "Vampire" Energy Waste

In a very strong proposed rule released on February 2, DOE proposed a 1-wattMicrowave standby power limit for most microwaves. Built-in and over-the-range units which combine a microwave and convection oven are allowed 2.2 standby watts. This new standard is part of an ongoing effort spurred by Congress to reduce standby or "vampire" energy waste. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required DOE to address standby and off-mode energy use when revising all product efficiency standards. A 2008 analysis in California showed that new, unoccupied homes draw about 117 watts. In other words, even if no one ever moves in, all the blinking lights and at-the-ready electronic controls within devices built in to a new home will consume more than 1,000 kWh in a year. DOE's new microwave standards take a bite out of this energy waste. Typical standby energy use of new microwaves today is about 4.0 watts. The standards will save about 0.4 quads of energy over 30 years, or an amount equal to the energy use of two million households. For more on 'vampire' waste, read the NRDC blog.  
Distribution Transformer Proposal Falls Way Short 
DOE released a very disappointing proposed rule for distribution transformers on February 1. The proposed standards cover both liquid-immersed distribution transformers purchased and owned by utilities and dry-type transformers used primarily in commercial buildings. Distribution transformers reduce voltage from the high levels used to ship power around a utility's network to the lower levels used to power equipment and devices. In reducing voltage, a small percentage of power is dissipated as heat. But these losses add up across the millions of transformers hanging on utility poles and standing on concrete pads or in building utility rooms across the U.S. Reducing these losses can translate into sizeable savings on a national basis.


DOE's proposed rule will cut utility distribution transformer losses for the most common transformer sizes by just 3 to 4%. But the largest transformer manufacturers had said they could accept standards that would reduce transformer losses by 12-15%. DOE said it chose the weak standard due to fear that the two existing suppliers of transformer core materials could not compete with a third supplier which offers a more efficient option. Yet the largest transformer manufacturers, who have a great deal at stake in assuring competition among their key suppliers, said the most robust supplier competition would occur at higher efficiency levels.


Consumers will pay the price if DOE sticks with their decision. DOE estimates 30-year savings from the proposed liquid-immersed transformer standard at 50 TWh (enough to power 145,000 homes for those 30 years) and $3.7 billion net present value. Moving to the levels suggested by some manufacturers and endorsed by ASAP and other efficiency advocates would quadruple the savings to 200 TWh (i.e. enough to power another 435,000 homes for 30 years) and $14 billion net present value. The excess losses will be built into consumers' utility rates for a very long time.


DOE proposed solid improvements in the standards for medium voltage dry-type transformers based on levels agreed upon between advocates and industry (about a 20% cut in losses for the most common types), but the proposal for the far more common low-voltage dry-type transformers fell way short of its potential. DOE proposed standards for the most common low-voltage dry-type transformers which would reduce losses by about 23%, but manufacturers had signaled they could live with a 30% or more reduction in losses. ASAP and other efficiency advocates support a 40% reduction in losses for the most common low-voltage dry-type transformers, levels which DOE says can be met by using better grades of transformer core silicon steel but the same construction techniques as are used today. Nearly all low-voltage dry-type transformers are manufactured in Mexico. ASAP, ACEEE, NCLC, NRDC, and Earthjustice issued a joint press release  calling out DOE for the weak proposed standards and urging DOE to reconsider.


A hearing is scheduled for February 23 and comments are due 60 days after the official notice is published.
A First for DOE - Regional Standards
Regional Map
DOE has taken on the challenging task of figuring out how to implement the first-ever regional standards. The recent rulemaking for furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps divided the
country into two regions for furnaces (cold and hot) and three regions for air-conditioners (cold, hot-humid, hot-dry regions) reflecting the different heating/cooling needs of each region. (Heat pumps have one national standard). Unlike national standards where non-complying products can no longer be manufactured or imported after the effective date, regional standards allow manufacturers to produce and ship the less efficient products to certain regions. For example, standards in the south allow a Georgia homeowner to purchase an 80% AFUE furnace instead of the 90% AFUE furnace (i.e. condensing) required in the colder climates. The regional standards add a layer of complexity to enforcement issues.   

To sort through the possible solutions, DOE recently opened a regional enforcement docket. DOE outlined three possible approaches with varying reporting requirements for distributors and installers. In each approach, manufacturers would be required to certify products, inform distributors about regions, and track shipments to distributors. The key issue is ensuring that the units are being installed in the correct locations without posing an undue burden on those working on the front lines. DOE is seeking comments on the benefts and burdens of each approach.
Row housesAdditionally, DOE is considering a waiver process to address the needs of northern homes for which it may be unusually difficult to install a condensing furnace. A group of stakeholders, including ASAP, NRDC and other advocates, AGA, ACCA, and PHCC have discussed the waiver issue at length and submitted joint comments to DOE.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is conducting a concurrent rulemaking to determine proper labeling of the equipment. Ideally, clear, concise labeling will limit confusion for those distributing and installing the furnaces and air conditioners. Comments for both the DOE enforcement docket and the FTC labeling docket were due February 6th.
DOE is required to publish a final enforcement rule by September 2012. The efficiency standards go into effect May 1, 2013 for non-weatherized furnaces and January 1, 2015 for weatherized furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps. For more info on the standards, see the ASAP fact sheet.
Standards Backlog at OMB

OMB Delays Feb 2012 

A quick look at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulatory dashboard reveals that three DOE energy conservation dockets have been held up for months. The final rule for residential clothes washers and the proposed rule for walk-in coolers and freezers have been under review since September 2011 (4 months) and the proposed rule for battery chargers/external power supplies since July 2011 (6 months). Statutory deadlines have passed for the three products, pushing DOE into noncompliance with the law. The microwave proposed rule, which was just released on January 31, had been at OMB for 7 months. Two other standards are also overdue - an update for metal halide light fixtures and standards for reflector lamps erroneously left out of a 2009 final rule. OMB has not yet recognized receipt of either of these proposals from DOE. Energy's a-wastin' while we are a-waitin'.

Enforcement Activity Continues

DOE sealOver the last six months, DOE's Office of Enforcement has issued numerous notices to companies for noncompliant central air conditioners, freezers and showerheads. The most egregious of the bunch were showerheads that exceeded the minimum showerhead standards of 2.5 gallons per minute by a whopping 224%-330%! Showerheads from Watermark Design (10.5 gpm), Hudson-Reed (8.1 gpm) and Zoe (9.4 gpm) were found to be in violation. The companies were required to cease distribution of the products and are liable for civil penalties. In another case, Showerhead Power altered and sold 5,000 commercially available legal showerheads. The alterations caused the showerheads to consume water in excess of the efficiency standards. They were required to cease sale of the products and reached a settlement amount of $10,000 for the civil penalty.


In the past six months, DOE issued additional noncompliance determinations to the following companies:  

  • November 1: Haier America Trading for a compact chest freezer model manufactured in China that exceeds the efficiency standard by 32%;
  • October 17: Goodman Manufacturing for a commercial packaged central air conditioner that is 12% less efficient than the standard requires (the standard is EER 11);
  • October 5: Midea America Corporation for a compact freezer privately labeled by Felix Storch which consumes more than the 317 kilowatt hours allowed per year by the federal standards;
  • October 3: Aspen Manufacturing for a residential split central air conditioner that failed to meet the standard; and
  • September 27: AeroSys for 4 models of through the wall air-conditioners with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) between 10.0 and 10.2. The standards call for no less than 12 SEER. This is the third notice of noncompliance issued to AeroSys since the beginning of 2010.

Each company is required to cease distribution of the noncompliant products(s) and provide written documentation of their actions to DOE within 30 days of the notice. 


See the Office of Enforcement for more details. The public can file complaints directly at [email protected].

A Bright Start to the Year light bulb choices











 Out with the old light bulbs, in with the new. So starts 2012. As of January 1st, standards for the 100-watt light bulb require that they be at least 28% more efficient than traditional bulbs. That means 28% energy savings if you purchase one of the new efficient halogen incandescents and more than 75% savings if you go with CFLs or LEDs. 

Though there was some last minute confusion when Congress passed a rider to delay funding for enforcement of the lighting standards until September 2012, the standards are still intact. U.S. manufacturers, who have already spent millions of dollars retooling their plants, are complying with the law and ceased production of the inefficient 100-watt bulb before the January 1, 2012 deadline. The delay in enforcement should have minimal impact on the energy and cost savings. 


A number of groups have produced excellent materials to help consumers make informed lighting choices. The LUMEN website is a good place to start. Also try out the NRDC Buying Guide which will help you decide which light is right for your home and your budget. Replacing inefficient lighting is one of the easiest ways to save energy and money around the house. Though the phase-in of more efficient lighting continues through 2014 (75-watt in 2013 and 60- and 40-watt lightbulbs in 2014), there's no reason to wait to save money. See the sidebar for more lighting resources.

California: Big Energy Savings Come in Little Boxes
Battery Charger SystemsBattery chargers
What happens when California's 170 million battery charger systems get together? They consume over 8,000 gigawatt hours of electricity per year - two-thirds of it wasted by inefficiency. What happens when the California Energy Commission (CEC) sets efficiency standards for those same chargers? They ensure that approximately 2,200 gigawatt hours of electricity will be saved each year or enough energy to power nearly 350,000 homes. They will also help California ratepayers save an estimated $300 million per year once the standards are fully implemented.


All sorts of products (phones, iPods, computers, power tools, electric toothbrushes, etc) include a battery charger system. Individually, they don't save huge amounts of energy and money but with so many chargers -approximately 11 per household in California - even a small change in efficiency has a big payoff on a statewide basis.


The standards adopted by the CEC on January 12, 2012 will cut wasted energy by setting a limit on the total electricity consumed by a battery charger in three separate modes: 1. charge mode; 2. no-battery mode (when the battery has been removed or disconnected); and 3. maintenance mode (when the battery  has been fully charged). Standards for most consumer chargers will take effect on February 1, 2013; for industrial chargers on January 1, 2014; and for small commercial chargers on January 1, 2017. California will likely have 1-2 years to accumulate savings from their standards for consumer battery chargers before national standards for consumer battery chargers go into effect. 


In addition, the California standards may very well influence the outcome of the national standards rulemaking which is now underway. As noted in the OMB story above, the battery charger/external power supply proposed rule had been held up in OMB for six months, surpassing the statutory July 1, 2011 final rule deadline. One bright side of the delay is the opportunity it presents for DOE to bring its final standards into line with the California standards.
Set-Top BoxesCable box 


DOE opened the preliminary stages of a set-top box rulemaking with a public hearing on January 26, 2012. DOE, which published a Request for Information (RFI)  and preliminary market and technology assessments in December 2011, intends to issue a proposed rule by fall 2012 and a final rule by summer 2013. Set-top boxes are not typical consumer products because they are usually purchased and owned by cable, satellite and phone companies, not by consumers. However, consumers pay the energy costs to operate the box in their home, and this can be significant - some set-top boxes with a built-in DVR can consume as much energy as a new big screen TV. Efficiency has been improving - for example, a new Energy Star specification became effective last fall and a few service providers (e.g. DirectTV, Verizon and AT&T) are Energy Star partners. The cable industry has also made significant commitments, including promises for their new boxes to comply with Energy Star 3.0 by the end of 2013 and to develop boxes which would save even more by entering a "deep sleep" mode when not in use by the end of 2014. Deployment of boxes that achieve deep sleep in field usage would deliver huge energy savings as today's boxes consume near full power levels even when "turned off". With many stakeholders committed to finding ways to curtail energy waste in delivering pay TV services, look for creative problem-solving as advocates, manufacturers, and TV service providers work with DOE to lower the energy consumption of TV service.


Comments on the RFI are due by March 15, 2012. In the DOE Public Presentation document, DOE lists 42 topics on which it seeks comment. For additional information, see the NRDC fact sheet. A concurrent test procedure rulemaking is ongoing with an anticipated final rule date of spring 2013.

What's up at DOE?

Here are some key developments with DOE rulemakings. 


Commercial Heating and Air Conditioning Equipment
Proposed Rule, January 2012
DOE is proposing to amend energy conservation standards for certain commercial heating and air conditioning equipment. ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) Standard 90.1 is a commercial building energy code which all states must meet or exceed and which includes minimum efficiency requirements for equipment. Each time ASHRAE amends its standards, DOE must either establish amended standards for the products at the levels specified in ASHRAE 90.1 or establish more stringent standards if they would result in significant additional energy savings and are technologically feasible and economically justified. DOE is proposing to adopt the levels in ASHRAE 90.1-2010 for water- and evaporatively-cooled air conditioners, certain VRF water-source heat pumps, and computer room air conditioners. DOE will be conducting additional analysis to evaluate higher efficiency levels for single-package vertical air conditioners and heat pumps (SPVUs). Unfortunately, ASHRAE has not recently considered updates for the far larger and more important category of air-cooled air conditioners and heat pumps and DOE decided it lacks authority to consider an update on its own. The rule also ignored commercial furnaces and water heaters. For more info, see DOE's proposed rule and the joint comments submitted to DOE.


Automatic Icemakers

Preliminary Analysis, January 2012

Test Procedure Final Rule, January 2012

Having recently finished the test procedure rulemaking, DOE published a preliminary analysis with a public hearing set for February 16 and written comments due by March 9. The test procedure final rule expands coverage to all batch and continuous type icemakers with capacities from 50 to 4,000 pounds of ice per 24 hours. It also standardizes test results based on ice hardness for continuous type icemakers.


General Service Fluorescent Lamps and Incandescent Reflector Lampsfluorescent tubes

Framework Document, September 2011

In September, DOE published a framework document as the first step in a rulemaking to consider amending the standards for general service fluorescent lamps (GSFLs) and incandescent reflector lamps (IRLs). DOE is considering expanding the scope for GSFLs to include additional types of lamps including pin-based CFLs, non-linear fluorescent lamps (i.e. circline), and fluorescent lamps with alternate lengths (e.g. 2-, 3-, 5-foot). For incandescent reflector lamps, improved halogen infrared (HIR) technology and advanced reflector designs could yield significant energy savings.


State of the Statesus map color
Most of the standards action has been at the Federal level and in California over the past couple of years, but with a new docket opening in California and work under way to develop standards for products not subject to federal preemption, we anticipate that state activity will be ramping up once again.  
Fun Facts

power cordThe correct answer is D.


DOE reports that there were 402 million battery chargers shipped in the U.S. in 2008. The most popular uses were mobile phones (130 million); MP-3 players, notebooks, and cordless phones (40 million each); and power tools (about 25 million). The total estimated number of battery chargers in the U.S. is 1.5 billion!


California estimated approximately 11 battery charger systems per household. Are you an above average household?

Send Us Feedback

We'd love to hear from you with feedback about the newsletter and the work we do. Please send along your ideas, comments, or suggestions to:

Marianne DiMascio, Appliance Standards Awareness Project

[email protected]

Follow us on Twitter:

In This Issue
Big Savings From New Ballast Standard
Microwaves Take a Bite out of 'Vampire' Energy Waste
Distribution Transformer Proposal Falls Way Short
Regional Standards: Who Referees?
Why the Backlog, OMB?
Enforcement Office Busy
California: Big Energy Savings Come in Little Boxes
Set-top Boxes
What's Up at DOE?
New ASAP Staff Member
Fun Facts: How Many Battery Chargers in the US?
New ASAP/ACEEE Report Coming Soon:  
The latest on potential new standards and savings estimates for more than 30 products.
ASAP is Growing!

Please welcome our newest staff member, Adam Christensen,Staff Engineer. In this newly created position, Adam will  be responsible for strategic research and analysis on a select group of products. Adam has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and most recently worked as a Congressional Fellow in Senator Feinstein's Office. See his full bio here.

Upcoming DOE Hearings
Feb 14 from  9am-4pm 
ASHRAE Products
Feb 14 from  3-5pm 
Test Procedures for AC/HP Refrigerant (R-22)

Feb 16  from 9am-2pm
Automatic Icemakers
March 14 from 9am-4pm
Microwave Ovens
New DOE Certification Database

Now you can look up information about products subject to DOE energy conservation standards online!  The database houses certification reports and compliance statements submitted by manufacturers for covered products and equipment. It offers an easy-to-use search function and is easily downloadable. This inital version is a work in progress. DOE welcomes suggestions for improvement. Link to Database

More Tips on Buying Energy Efficient Light Bulbs:


Please consider posting these resources on your website

Fun Facts

Approximately how many battery chargers were shipped in the US in 2008?
a. 100 million

b. 200 million

c. 300 million

d. 400 milion


Is your home above or below average? How many in your home? phone, ipod, computer, drill, toothbrush, etc?  


See answers below