Special Issue: Better Appliances: An Analysis of Performance, Features and Price

As Efficiency Has Improved 

May 21, 2013

Data-Based Assessment of Efficiency Standards Finds Consumers Gain More Than Energy Savings
bar graph Proponents of efficiency standards have long observed that the energy and water use of appliances and equipment have decreased significantly over time as efficiency standards have taken effect. But how have other product attributes changed? A new study by ACEEE and ASAP, Better Appliances: An Analysis of Performance, Features, and Price as Efficiency Has Improved, compared the performance, features, and price of products available before and after efficiency standards were implemented for ten products. This data-based assessment shows that newer appliances, equipment and lighting are not only more efficient, they perform the same or better while including a large number of new features. In many cases, product prices have either stayed the same or even declined as efficiency has improved. In other cases, electricity bill savings outweigh price increases.

This report is rich with data, analysis, graphs and charts showing how performance, features, and price have changed over time as efficiency has improved for the following ten products: refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers, central air conditioners, toilets, general service light bulbs, incandescent reflector lamps, fluorescent lamp ballasts, commercial rooftop air conditioners, and beverage vending machines. Take a close look. 

Press Release
Executive Summary
Hidden Gems.....

The report is full of interesting facts, graphs, and analyses. We thought we'd highlight a few hidden gems that might escape notice:

Household Savings: Considering six household products evaluated for this report (refrigerator, clothes washer & clothes dryer, dishwasher, central air conditioner, and toilets), a household with products that just meet the current efficiency standards will save $360 on their annual utility bills compared to a household with the same products purchased in 1992, or about 40% of the 1992 products' operating cost. See Figure 1 on page 6.  

Declining Prices: Our analysis of data from Consumer Reports shows that the average prices of top-freezers and side-by-side units have declined significantly over time. See figure 9 on page 18. 

Just as Cool: While maintaining cooling capacity and dehumidification capability, air conditioners saw a big improvement in efficiency between 2001 and today. See Figure 23 on Page 44 for residential AC and Figure 41 on page 78 for commercial AC. 

Where's the buzz and the flicker?
 If the fluorescent lights in your office have been replaced with electronic ballasts, you might find that the flicker isn't detectable and the buzzing is gone. Look under additional features on page 69.   

Check out the report here for these and other gems. 
Can you spot the differences? 

Though you can't spot all these differences in a picture, the report found that, for today's refrigerators:
  • Temperature performance has improved and noise levels have dropped
  • The average volume of available models has increased
  • Consumers now have a significantly wider range of options in bottom-freezer refrigerators including French-door models (shown in picture on sidebar)
  • New features include new types of water dispensers, in-the-door ice makers, and additional compartments
  • Between 1987 and 2010, real prices decreased by about 35% while average energy use decreased by more than 50%
The study analyzed 10 products in all. Click here to see the executive summary or the full report.
Contact Us

Marianne DiMascio, Appliance Standards Awareness Project

[email protected]

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Quote of Note: 
What this report shows is that consumers haven't had to sacrifice good performance or new features in exchange for improved efficiency."
Steve Nadel, Executive Director, ACEEE
Can You Spot the Differences?*
1990's refrigerator
Circa 1990

4-door refrigerator
Circa 2013
*some differences are invisible to the eye.

See answers below