Energy Efficient Appliances Save Consumers Cash

Posted by Deborah E. Miller on February 22, 2017
Energy Efficient Appliances Save Consumers Cash

In the home performance industry, we are doing the Lord’s work by ensuring that the homes Americans live in are healthy and energy efficient.

With the election of a new president and Congress, we’ve all been hearing a lot about how industry is overburdened with government regulations and how government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. What has been lost in this debate is that there are many government programs, including those that promote energy efficient products that increase our nation’s security, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, promote a clean and sustainable environment, and save consumers thousands of dollars.

An interesting poll was recently released that showed that even among “Trump voters,” there is significant support for policies to protect the environment including 76% who believe that the government “should require manufacturers to continue to make appliances more energy efficient.”

As someone who has been on both sides of the equation, working for the federal government to set mandatory minimum efficiency appliance standards as well as representing air conditioning manufacturers in the private sector (and being a home owner myself), I know that this program has an important role to play – especially in home performance.

How many times have you been in a home doing an audit, and seen an old 8 or 10 SEER air conditioning unit, an ancient furnace, incandescent light bulbs all over the house, and an old refrigerator sitting in the garage to hold the beer? Along with your usual evaluation and recommendations for home sealing, insulation, programmable thermostats, this is also a valuable time to have a discussion with the homeowner about how efficient appliances can save them hundreds of dollars each year.


Starting with the initial legislation, following the energy crisis of the early 1970s, the statute that mandated national minimum energy efficiency levels for residential appliances (National Appliance and Energy Conservation Act of 1975 - NAECA), created uniform efficiency standards for certain household appliances. Three additional laws have been passed by Congress since, ultimately giving the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) the authority to set standards for over 60 residential and commercial products.

The need for national standards became evident when California and a few other states began to require higher efficiency products to be sold in their states, making it too expensive for manufacturers and distributors to offer a wide array of equipment. Coming together around legislation (NAECA) that would pre-empt state standards, energy efficiency groups, manufacturers, consumer groups, states and others, agreed that one national standard would benefit all. 

Over the years, the U.S. Department of Energy has reviewed and issued standards that are “technologically feasible and economically justified” for 18 of the 23 residential products – central air conditioners and heat pumps, furnaces, water heaters, white goods (refrigerator/freezers, dishwashers, washer/dryers), and lighting, among other products. The law requires that the state of these products be reviewed and evaluated every three to five years, to examine whether higher efficiencies should be required.

Yes, there have been hiccups along the way, including contentious regulatory and court proceedings that have led to greater consultation with all parties and more in-depth analysis. The outcome has been a win-win for consumers and the environment.

Beginning in the late 1990s with informal negotiations on residential refrigerators and electronic ballast standards, and continuing under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee on which I serve, many residential appliance consensus standards have been hammered out between manufacturers, energy efficiency groups, states and others that will avoid the need to build hundreds of power plants, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Appliance Standards Save Consumers Cash

How has this government program benefited consumers? According to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy, 44 new or updated standards published since 2009, are projected to save consumers more than $550 billion by 2030, and savings since 1987 are projected to be over $2 trillion. In the case of residential energy, product standards represent over 90% of home energy use and, on average, homeowners will save close to $400 a year in energy and water bills.

Current Standards

The following is a list of the status of national efficiency standards for a few major home appliances. More information can be found on the Appliance Standards Awareness Project website listed below.

Cooling Equipment

Cooling Equipment is defined as residential central air conditioners and heat pumps. In 2000, the standard for central air conditioners was set at 13 SEER raising it from 10 SEER, and became effective in 2006.  In 2011, a consensus rulemaking among stakeholders was finalized for the first time, acknowledging the importance of climatic regional differences and setting regional standards for three regions: the North, South and Southwest. The current standards set the new minimum efficiency standards to a cooling efficiency of 14 SEER for split central air conditioners in the South and Southwest, however, maintaining a 13 SEER for northern states. In the case of the Southwest, the standards specify an Energy Efficiency Ration (EER) where there are consistently high and humid temperatures. Heat pump standards for all three regions are 14 SEER. The DOE recently announced a possible update of the consensus standard in the form of a “direct final rule.” This would be a final step in the regulatory review process however it remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will allow this standard to be issued. 


We have come a long way from the time when refrigerators were a simply designed product with one space for refrigerated items and an “ice box” or freezer for frozen goods.  Now there are an endless variety of refrigerator designs and features. Since the initial refrigerator standards were set in the 1970s, the energy use of a typical refrigerator has gone from1,800 kWh/yr. to less than 500 kWh/yr. today.


Dishwashers have gone through several “cycles” of increasing energy and water efficiency standards. The first minimum efficiency standard, effective in 1990, required a feature that would allow consumers to save energy by selecting to have the dishwasher dry dishes without heat. Three increasing energy efficiency standards later, including two consensus agreements between stakeholders, dishwashers now must use less than 307 kWh/yr. and 5.0 gal/cycle.

Clothes Washers

There have been several changes in minimum efficiency standards since the first washer standard was set in 2001. As a result of latest standards and metrics/descriptors that the DOE uses, pushing higher efficiencies for energy and water use, new design changes were needed. This caused more and more manufacturers to offer only horizontal access, front or top loading machines. By January 2018, when the latest standard is in effect, the energy standard will be 33% more energy efficient, and water efficiency will be 19% more efficient than current standards.

Clothes Dryers

There is a close connection between washer efficiency and dryer efficiency which significantly rests upon the amount of moisture that remains in the clothes after the washer cycle is over. Initial clothes dryer standards were set by Congress in 1987 which outlawed constantly burning pilot lights in gas dryers.  Since then, there have been two updates with the most recent taking effect in January 2015. Previously, the efficiency of clothes dryers was measured by energy factor (EF) in lbs/kWh. Since January 2015, dryer efficiency has been measured by a new metric, combined energy factor (CEF), which incorporates standby energy consumption.

Water Heaters

The most recent water heater standard became effective in 2015. The standard uses Energy Factor (EF) as its metric of efficiency which is based upon the type of water heater and its rated storage volume.


The current furnace efficiency standard is at 80% AFUE, effective in 2015. While stakeholders negotiated a new consensus agreement that set higher regional standards for furnaces, a court challenge by one group has prevented the department from issuing a higher standard for non-weatherized furnaces.


Don’t forget to talk to your customers about ENERGY STAR products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program is one is of the most successful federal government voluntary programs significantly helping to transform the marketplace for household appliances and other residential and commercial products. The ENERGY STAR brand is recognized by over 70% of consumers, and products that have the ENERGY STAR label are the most efficient that manufacturers offer, well above the minimum efficiency standards. More information on ENERGY STAR appliances can be found at https://www.energystar.gov/products. You can help your customer find product rebates available by zip code by going to https://www.energystar.gov/rebate-finder.


Here is a list of websites you can check out for additional background on the latest energy efficiency levels on residential equipment and products. Consumers have various resources to see which models are most efficient and cost effective as well.

Background for professionals:

Especially for consumers:


Deborah E. Miller is the Director of Business Development & Strategic Projects for the Home Performance Coalition. This blog is reprinted with permission.

Add a new blog comment!

Enter your comments in the box below:

(Please note that all blog entries and comments are subject to review prior to posting.)


While we will do our best to monitor all comments and blog posts for accuracy and relevancy, Home Energy is not responsible for content posted by our readers or third parties. Home Energy reserves the right to edit or remove comments or blog posts that do not meet our community guidelines.

Recent Blogs
Energy Efficient Appliances Save Consumers Cash

Energy Efficient Appliances Save Consumers Cash

Deborah E. Miller

In the home performance industry, we are doing the Lord’s work by ensuring that the homes Americans live in are healthy and energy efficient. [continue reading]

How to Hook Every Type of Homeowner

How to Hook Every Type of Homeowner

Todd Bairstow

When homeowners have an HVACR need, 80 to 90 percent begin their search for a provider on the Internet. Braving the wilds of the web, they’ll click and click, scroll and scroll, evaluating the appeal of you and your competition to find the best provider for their job. [continue reading]

Electric Vehicles Can Benefit All Utility Customers

Electric Vehicles Can Benefit All Utility Customers

Luke Tonachel

Despite the Trump administration’s apparent affection for the fossil fuels industry, individual states are looking at the numbers and coming up with a different conclusion: The future belongs to pollution-free electric vehicles, and the sooner we get them on the road, the better off we’ll all be. And there are some important new studies out that give a hint of just how much everyone will benefit. [continue reading]

Preliminary Energy Savings Announced for ASHRAE/IES 2016 Energy Standard

Preliminary Energy Savings Announced for ASHRAE/IES 2016 Energy Standard

Jodi Scott

More than 30 percent energy savings can be achieved using the 2016 version of Standard 90.1, according to recent analysis conducted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) in support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Energy Codes Program. [continue reading]

BECC Call for Abstracts is Open

BECC Call for Abstracts is Open

Macie Melendez

The Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference (BECC) is focused on understanding human behavior and decision making. This knowledge can accelerate the transition to an energy-efficient and low-carbon future. Conference organizers are currently seeking new, innovative research and applied work from leaders in behavioral sciences on the adoption of energy efficiency in energy production and use. Theyinvite 400 to 500-word abstracts for formal oral presentations, with or without accompanying full papers, as well as five-minute "lightning ... [continue reading]

Demand Response Programs Can Reduce Utilities' Peak Demand by an Average of 10%, Complementing Savings From Energy Efficiency Programs

Demand Response Programs Can Reduce Utilities' Peak Demand by an Average of 10%, Complementing Savings From Energy Efficiency Programs

Steven Nadel

Demand response and energy efficiency programs are complementary: energy efficiency reduces both energy use and peak demand while demand response provides additional peak demand reductions. In this blog, we use data to illustrate the importance of each, including some new data on actual savings from demand response programs. [continue reading]

Who Installs More Solar - Democrats or Republicans?

Who Installs More Solar - Democrats or Republicans?

Kumar Dhuvur

Energy can seem like a politically divisive issue. Democrats earnestly support renewable energy adoption as a path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while Republicans reject solar subsidies and prefer to frack first and ask questions later, right? Wrong. In an especially divisive election year, it may come as a breath of fresh air to learn that clean energy knows no party. [continue reading]

Home Diagnosis TV Series

Home Diagnosis TV Series

Macie Melendez

It's likely that you've heard of Corbett and Grace Lunsford before, as they recently went on a 20-city U.S. Tour from April 2016 to January 2017 in the world's highest performance tiny house on wheels,the #TinyLab. The Proof Is Possible Tourhad a very simple mission: torevolutionize the home market by teaching consumers and contractors alike to use scientific testing to prove the work gets done to quality standards. (We wrote about the #TinyLab ... [continue reading]

The Larry Armanda Scholarship Awards

The Larry Armanda Scholarship Awards

Lindsay Flickinger

Thanks to Larry Armanda’s family and the HPC Memorial Scholarship Fund, two scholarship awards for the HPC National Home Performance Conference are being offered. These awards will go to women working in low income weatherization. Each scholarship award will include a full conference registration, 3 night stay at the conference host hotel, and $250 for travel expenses. The recipients will be recognized at the conference lunch on Tuesday, March 21. [continue reading]

Energy Solutions for a Resilient Future: Q&A with Josh Notes of greeNEWit

Energy Solutions for a Resilient Future: Q&A with Josh Notes of greeNEWit

Tom White

Irecently spoke with Josh Notes, co-founder and managing partner of greeNEWit. Among many other accomplishments, greeNEWit was recognized by the EPA with a 2016 ENERGY STAR Contractor of the Year Award for its outstanding efforts to increase the adoption of energy-efficient products in homes. [continue reading]

Earn BPI CEU credits
Home Performance with EnergyStar

Harness the power of

Get the Home Energy