Issue 17

June 5, 2015

In This Issue
Why are so many people spending so much time together at DOE this spring and summer? 

They are coming together to figure out how to achieve efficiency gains for selected appliances and equipment while meeting the varied needs of stakeholders groups such as industry, trade associations, efficiency proponents, consumers, utilities, and DOE. Though this process may not work for all products, DOE notes that bringing together key stakeholders for negotiation is "less adversarial and better suited to resolving complex technical issues." The process is affectionately known as 'RegNeg', a shortened version of regulatory negotiation. 

DOE's Appliance Standards & Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee (ASRAC) recently formed working groups for three sets of products:
The working groups have a bit more leeway to be creative in their approach to standards and energy savings than conventional DOE rulemakings. For example, the working group for commercial air conditioners is considering aligning compliance dates for commercial furnaces and air conditioners and a two-step approach to the standard. The stakes are high: the revised analysis developed for the working group shows that standards which are cost effective for purchasers could save 25 quads of energy and net $100 billion in savings over 30 years of product sales. 

For those interested in the details, the working group participants are selected from interested stakeholder groups including DOE, industry trade groups, consumer groups, efficiency advocates and utilities. Those who applied and were accepted for the working groups have a busy schedule of meetings. For example, the miscellaneous refrigeration working group will spend 8 days together in steamy DC in June, July, and August. The rooftop AC working group will meet 6 times (for 1 to 2 days each time) over about a 2-month period. Stakeholders will try to reach consensus on efficiency standards for each product. At an appointed date, the working group will submit their recommendations to the ASRAC committee. If approved by the committee, the recommendations are formally passed on to DOE to form the basis of a proposed rule.

It looks like it will be a busy and productive summer for the RegNeg groups. 
Ever-increasing idle power use documented in NRDC paper

A newly-released paper from NRDC entitled:  "Home Idle Load: Devices Wasting Huge Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use," documents the ever-increasing 'always on' power use of our devices and appliances. Our household gadgets have gone digital and now they 'idle', 'sleep', or standby' when not actively in use but not completely turned off. We like our computers to turn on with a click of the space bar and our cable boxes to record our favorite show while we sleep. However, we don't expect them to be eating up energy while we - and they - rest, but they do. 

The paper takes both a broad and detailed look at home electricity use. Of 70,000 homes studied in northern California, idle power accounted for 23% of a home's electricity use - energy that is wasted by devices that are 'always on', even when not in use. 

Plugging in In a fascinating peek at how we live our plugged-in lives, NRDC documented electricity use in 10 homes in the San Francisco Bay area. Homes in the study had an average of 65 plugged-in devices with a maximum of 120. Idle electricity use accounted for between 30% and 40% of electricity use in most of the 10 homes but was as high as 74% in one home. That's a lot of wasted electricity. 

In the 10 homes, consumer electronics account for just over 50% of the idle power, miscellaneous items (e.g., aquariums, garage door openers, coffee makers, etc.) account for 34% and heating, cooling, lighting and refrigeration for 15%. NRDC estimates that these "always-on but inactive" loads consume 1300 kilowatt-hours annually on average, adding between $165 and $440 annually to a household's electricity bill. For a full list of the electricity consumption of devices in each home, check out the report appendix.

The top idle electricity user among the 10 homes was fishpond equipment that was on 24/7, adding up to $220 in annual bills! The second was a fan that was left on all the time and the third was a hot water recirculation pump - a device that constantly circulates hot water so that it's immediately available when you turn on the faucet. The remaining top ten electricity wasters were: halogen light bulbs left on 24/7, aquarium equipment, set-top (cable) boxes, TVs, modems, desktop computers, and security systems. 

Heated towel rack A few other notable energy hogs from the study include a heated towel rack that had no 'off' switch or timer; a whole house audio system that used 350 watts (about $350-$900 in annual electricity bills), and a security/surveillance system which used 500 watts (about $500-$1300 in annual electricity bills). Not all systems would use this much energy but buyer beware. 

The tide of new and unusual devices keeps coming. The paper highlights a few budding vampires: 

- heated night-light toilet seats (so you can find your way to a warm seat in the dark);

- digital faucets that display water temperature; and

- digital light switches that control lighting, heating and cooling.


The report provides practical advice for cutting back on home idle energy use from the simple (unplug, use a power strip, set a timer) to the more complex (take a detailed inventory of devices). The authors provide a thorough online self-diagnosis and action guide.

In the policy realm, the authors recommend behavior and incentive efficiency programs that encourage consumers to take action (for example, utility bills that alert the occupant of the home's idle load and how it compares to neighbors) and efficiency standards, including Energy Star and DOE's Appliance Standards Program. DOE sets standby and off-mode requirements but not all products drawing idle power are covered by their program. We may see some minor efficiency gains when new standards for external power supplies take effect in 2016 but it is clear from the report that there's more waste to clean up. 

Read "Devices Wasting Huge Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use"
Moving one step closer to efficient gas furnaces

Proposed national furnace standards will save consumers money but stronger standards would save even more

Condensing gas furnace
On February 11, 2015, the US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a proposed rule for furnaces that would provide significant savings for consumers on their home heating bills, and be the biggest natural-gas saving standards ever completed by the agency. The new standards would reduce gas and propane furnace energy consumption by about 13% relative to basic furnaces sold today.

Improved furnace efficiency standards are a crucial energy-savings opportunity for homeowners and the nation, since about one-fifth of all the energy consumed in US homes goes to operate gas and propane furnaces. These furnaces provide heat for more than 40% of homes, and their minimum efficiency standards have been virtually unchanged since 1992.
What basement energy hog uses more energy than a refrigerator?

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued new efficiency standards for furnace fans, which are a little-known energy hog that may be lurking in your basement. On May 14, DOE proposed new standards that would help tame another energy hog that may be in your basement - dehumidifiers. However, while the proposed standards would be a good step towards cutting dehumidifier energy waste, they leave large cost-effective energy savings on the table.

For the 13% of homes with dehumidifiers, their consumption of 600-900 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year amounts to 6-8% of an average household's electricity consumption. By comparison, a typical new refrigerator consumes about 450 kWh on average.


Read more

Clock turning back
Members of Congress trying to turn the clock back on energy efficiency

A handful of Congressional amendments were filed recently which would stop, limit, or slow down efficiency standards rulemakings and the consumer savings that go along with them. What gives? And why are legislators trying to turn the clock back on an energy policy that has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for more than four decades? 

Furnaces: Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee filed an amendment which would prevent DOE from finalizing gas furnace efficiency standards. Of all the products covered by DOE's appliance standards program, this is likely the one that most needs updating. The current gas furnace standards, which were set 28 years ago, are at an anemic 78% efficiency (known as AFUE) while today's best products reach 98% AFUE. 

Holding back the next round of furnaces standards means holding back consumer savings of up to $19 billion over 30 years. DOE proposed a 92% efficiency level which would essentially require a type of technology which captures waste heat from the flue gases. In a small percentage of homes, this condensing technology presents installation challenges. Efficiency advocates are working with industry stakeholders to explore approaches that would allow some non-condensing furnaces to be sold to address challenging installation situations.

At a Congressional hearing on June 4, 2015, Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE emphasized that the rule is a proposal, not a final rule. She also discussed the open public process saying, "We have had multiple public meetings, we've extended the comment period and it remains open as we sit here today and even after the comment period closes industry and others can come in and engage with the department to share data and issues and we are open to all of that information."

Ceiling Fans: Two amendments, one filed by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and another by Representatives Blackburn of Tennessee, Rokita of Indiana, and Dent of Pennsylvania (all states where ceiling fan or ceiling fan light kit manufacturers are located) would stop an open DOE rulemaking process in its tracks. Congress set the initial ceiling fan standards in 2005 and requires DOE to review and strengthen them if warranted. DOE has requested and analyzed preliminary data but has more work to do before they propose efficiency levels. DOE should be allowed to continue the process which Congress instructed them to do in the first place. 

Lighting: In the case of light bulbs, the idea to block efficiency standards for light bulbs seemed to ride into Congress on the heels of the Tea Party about 5 or 6 years ago. Despite the fact that light bulb standards sparked a revolution in lighting and reduced lighting energy use and utility bills nationwide, Rep. Burgess filed an amendment for the 5th time that would keep DOE from enforcing the light bulb standards.But major manufacturers are complying anyway. At this point, an enforcement ban only risks inviting an offshore manufacturer that still makes cheap, inefficient lamps for other markets to dump them into the US market. That move would undercut both energy savings and companies that have invested in US manufacturing of better bulbs, including improved incandescent light bulbs and LEDs. 
State of the States
California sign With California experiencing extreme drought conditions, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order on April 1, 2015, which instructed the California Energy Commission (CEC) to speed up the adoption of efficiency standards for faucets, toilets, and urinals. Though the standards were already in the works, the emergency order allowed CEC to move up the adoption date by a month and to require all products sold or installed in the state to comply with the new standards by January 1, 2016. The standards for the water-using products are expected to save about 10 billion gallons in the first year and more than 100 billion gallons of water per year when the stock is fully turned over. 100 billion gallons is just under one-fourth of the amount of water CA residents consume each year using these products. By cutting back on water and hot water use, the standards will also save energy used to pump and (in the case of faucets)  heat the water. The CEC approved the following maximum water use levels: 

     Lavatory faucets - 1.2 gallons per minute (gpm)
     Toilets - 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf)
     Urinals - one pint (16 ounces) per flush

See CEC docket and NRDC blog post for more.

On May 13, 2015, CEC also approved a new package of standards/labeling/reporting criteria for HVAC air filters, fluorescent dimming ballasts, and heat pump water chilling packages. The Commission approved labels for air filters, standby energy use of less than 1 watt for fluorescent dimming ballasts, and reporting requirements for heat pump water chilling packages. The amendments will go through an administrative review process before they are officially adopted. 

In March, 2015, CEC issued a draft proposal for computers, monitors and displays. CEC estimates that this group of products accounts for about 5% of electricity use in the state. The computer energy savings can be achieved by decreasing the amount of power in idle mode, which is when computers are turned on but not actively in use. Savings will be greater for desktops than for notebooks. For monitors and displays, the proposed standards would reduce the power in active mode by 3-5%. The savings could be achieved by switching to more efficient LEDs for the screen backlight. 

us map color
In other state news, legislators in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington filed bills this year to add standards for products such as faucets, toilets, urinals, commercial dishwashers, and air purifiers, among others. The legislative process is ongoing in each of the states. 
DOE update DOE seal

DOE actions below are in addition to actions highlighted in articles and blog posts above.

Commercial Furnaces

Proposed Rule, February 4, 2015 

DOE issued a proposed rule in January for new standards for commercial furnaces. Commercial furnaces are typically used to provide space heating for low-rise buildings such as schools, restaurants, big-box stores, and small office buildings and are almost always found inside a rooftop air conditioning unit. Commercial furnaces can use either gas or oil, although the vast majority are gas-fired. The proposed rule would raise the minimum efficiency level for gas-fired commercial furnaces from 80% to 82%. After the proposed rule was issued, DOE convened a working group composed of stakeholders including manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates with the goal of negotiating consensus standards for both commercial furnaces and commercial air conditioners by June 15.


Clothes Dryers

Request for Information, March 27, 2105

DOE issued a request for information as the first step in a process to consider amended standards for clothes dryers. Clothes dryers use about 900 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year on average, and unlike other appliances like refrigerators and clothes washers, there has been little improvement in average clothes dryer efficiency. However, very large energy savings are possible with improved automatic termination controls (which sense when the clothes are dry) and new technologies being introduced to the US market such as heat pump clothes dryers. Three heat pump clothes dryers met the 2014 Energy Star Emerging Technology Award specification, and these dryers achieve energy savings of at least 40% in their most efficient mode.



Proposed Rule, December 19, 2014 

DOE has proposed new standards for dishwashers that would achieve significant energy and water savings. The current standards specify a maximum energy consumption of 307 kWh per year and a maximum water consumption of 5 gallons per cycle. The new proposed standards would reduce the maximum allowable energy and water consumption by 24% and 38%, respectively.


Portable Air Conditioners

Test Procedure Proposed Rule and Preliminary Analysis (standards) February 27, 2015

DOE is considering establishing the first-ever standards for portable ACs. Portable ACs are similar to room ACs, except instead of being mounted in a window, portable ACs sit on the floor and exhaust the hot condenser air through a window using a duct. The problem with portable ACs is that much or all of the condenser air flow is drawn from the conditioned space and exhausted outside. This process creates a negative pressure, which results in infiltration of hot air from outside. DOE tested many portable AC units and found that after accounting for the impact of infiltration, some units are actually heating the room! DOE also found that even with dual-duct units, which include a second duct to bring in condenser air from the outside, a significant portion of the condenser air flow is still drawn from the conditioned space. DOE's preliminary analysis found that significant energy savings could be achieved by adding a second duct to single-duct units and by increasing the portion of the condenser air that is drawn from outside (rather than from the conditioned space).  

Fun Facts Ronald Reagan   

President Reagan signed the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act into law in March, 1987. The law established initial national minimum efficiency standards for a number of household appliances such as refrigerators, clothes washers, room air conditioners, snd water heaters. It also preempted state standards but in exchange the act required DOE to keep standards current as technology evolves by requiring regular reviews and updates. The bill passed the House in a voice vote and sailed through the Senate with 89 in favor and only 6 opposed. 

For more info: 

Marianne DiMascio, Appliance Standards Awareness Project

[email protected]


Hot food, less energy waste for gas & electric ovens
Bread baking in oven
DOE proposed new efficiency standards for kitchen ovens that would improve cooking efficiency and reduce "vampire" energy waste. The proposed standards would cut energy use by 3-12% for electric ovens and 11-33% for gas ovens relative to today's baseline products. 

Read the blog post 
The ASAP Blog
Read our recent blog posts:

Commercial and Industrial pumps: 

Residential boilers:

Water heaters:

Residential furnaces
Remember when light bulbs were just for lighting? 

To the list of amazing lighting innovations, add GPS-type LEDs that guide you through your shopping experience. An article by Cara Miala Gorman in Energy Efficiency Markets describes how a big box store in France is combining energy-efficient LEDs and smart phone technology to enhance the shopping experience. Need food for a cookout? Download the app, write your shopping list, and let the app do the walking.  
Chalk one up for lighting innovation. Thomas Edison would be proud.
Thomas Edison holding light bulb
Healthy dose of optimism on emissions

World Resources Institute (WRI) believes we can go back - waaay back to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2025. All this through a combination of existing federal laws and state actions.
Dose of optimism
For your daily dose of optimism, take a look at the press release for WRI's new study: Delivering on the US Climate Commitment: A 10 Point-Plan Toward a Low-Carbon Future
Super-Efficient Initiative 

Did you know that ceiling fans accounted for 6% of residential energy use in India in 2000? Do you wonder which companies won the award for producing computer monitors that are 28%-43% more efficient than comparable products? Check out the new website of the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment Initiative(SEAD). SEAD is a voluntary collaboration of governments working to promote the manufacture, purchase, and use of energy-efficient appliances, equipment, and lighting worldwide. 
Fun Facts 
Which president signed legislation to establish the first national appliance standards? 
  Presidential seal
Extra points if you know which year and many, many extra points if you can guess how many voted for and against in the Senate.

See answers below.