This article was originally published in the September/October 1998 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.


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Home Energy Magazine Online September/October 1998


Residential Appliances Drain Energy. In the industrial nations, most kinds of energy use, on a per capita basis, are gradually diminishing. But there is one area in which energy use is not slowing at all: residential appliances. Increasing use of residential appliances (including consumer electronics) has been a major factor in the continuing rise of energy demand in the United States, Japan, and the leading European nations-where air conditioners, personal computers, VCRs, and microwave ovens are becoming more commonplace. This increase has not been offset by use of energy-efficient appliances. Between 1973 and 1992, for example, residential appliance electricity consumption grew by 86% in these countries, while total residential primary-energy demand increased by only 23%. However, increased use of energy efficient appliances could make a big difference in electricity demand. A recent study in France showed that average residential appliance electricity consumption was cut by 50% when the most energy-efficient appliances were used. Appliance Efficiency 1, no. 1 (1997). International Network for Energy Efficient Domestic Appliances, c/o Netherlands Agency for Energy and the Environment, P.O. Box 17, 6130 AA Sittard, The Netherlands. Tel:31-46-420-2202; Fax:31-46-452-8260; E-mail:

Heroes of Net Metering. Three community activists had a positive influence on the Maine Public Utility Commission's recent decision to implement net metering in that state. Peter Talmage, Naoto Inoue, and William Lord successfully lobbied the PUC to approve a simple plan for net metering that would allow homeowners who generate power to sell their excess power back to the local utility at the current retail rate over its distribution lines. All three men have solar photovoltaic panel arrays on their rooftops, ranging from about 3 to 4 kW. Their proposal called for (1) the use of one bidirectional meter (net meter) rather than two meters; (2) an annual billing procedure to reconcile the difference between the amount of power drawn off the grid and the amount pumped onto the grid; and (3) a ban on interconnection requirements, fees, or facilities charges from the utility. The PUC formally adopted a plan incorporating these stipulations on March 10, 1998. Home Power, June/July 1998. P.O. Box 520, Ashland, OR 97520. Tel: (800)707-6585; E-mail:; Web site:

Lousy Labels. The EnergyGuide labels used to rate the energy efficiency of front-loading (horizontal-axis) clothes washing machines are misleading because the ratings are not compared to the more typical top-loading (vertical-axis) washers, which use much more energy. The label on the front-loading washers states in fine print that only standard size, front-loading clothes washers are used in this scale. A consumer who glances at the label in a store may see a favorable rating on a top-loading machine and a less than glowing rating on a front-loading machine, and may conclude that the top-loader is more economical. This would be incorrect, because all front-loaders are more efficient than top-loading machines. The label currently presents a bar showing the range of energy efficiency, with Uses Least Energy at the far left and Uses Most Energy at the far right. An arrow marks the spot on the bar where each appliance falls in the range. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to change the category so that the two types of washers are compared to each other, making their true relative efficiency more apparent. Environmental Building News, April 1998, 28 Birge Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301. Tel:(802)257-7300; Fax:(802)257-7304; E-mail:; Web site:

Washer Rebate Program Revs Up. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency's Clothes Washer Initiative has been embraced by utilities and utility groups across the nation. Nationwide, up to 18% of all electric utilities have joined, offering customer rebates in the range of $100Ð$250 on energy-efficient horizontal-axis washing machines. Water Conservation News, April 1998, P.O. Box 942836, Sacramento, CA 94236-0001. Web site:

Oregon Gets Even Greener. Oregon is offering tax credits to residents who use energy-efficient appliances and install well-sealed ducts. The credits range from about $50 to $200 for energy-efficient clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and water heaters, and up to $250 for the additional costs of installing and properly sealing ducts. Energy and Housing Report, April 1998, 9124 Bradford Road, Silver Spring, MD 20901-4918; Tel: (301)565-ALFA; Fax: (301)565-3298.

Feds Offer Cheap Compact Fluorescents. The U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has teamed up with manufacturers of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in a technology procurement plan that will make the lights cheaper and easier to buy. The CFLs-made by Link USA International, Lights of America, and Sunpark Electronics-are designed to fit in most standard sockets and will save up to $15 per socket annually in energy costs. They also come with a one-year warranty. Contact Bill Currie or Graham Parker, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, MSIN K8-11, Richland, WA 99352. Tel:(509)375-3969 (Currie) or (509)375-3805 (Parker). Web site:

Survey Says: No Benefit from Deregulation! A national survey of over 1,000 consumers found that most people don't expect to benefit in any way if the electric industry is deregulated in their state. The survey, conducted by public relations agency Makovsky & Company, found that 51% of respondents would expect no benefit whatsoever from restructuring, while 37% would expect some benefit, and 12% were not sure. The public's lack of understanding of how the electric industry works was also revealed by the survey; only 48% of respondents said they believe that the industry is regulated by the government, while 33% said it was not, and 19% were unsure. The PowerSource, 1, no. 2 (1998). Makovsky & Company Incorporated, 575 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10022. Tel:(212)508-9600; Fax:(212)751-9710; E-mail:; Web site:

Restructuring and DSM-Good News and Bad. The bad news first: As utilities across the country race to gear up for restructuring, slash-and-burn cuts are taking place in demand-side management programs. For example, Northern States Power has decided to terminate its Neighborhood Energy Consortium home insulation program, which has been responsible for installing insulation in more than 3,500 homes in the St. Paul metropolitan area. The good news: The state Public Utilities Commission has stepped in and ordered that the program be continued, pending further investigation. More good news: Some utilities are viewing restructuring as an opportunity to assess their current DSM programs and look for new DSM prospects. One of these is Orange and Rockland Utilities (O&R) Incorporated of Pearl River, New York, which recently agreed to merge with Consolidated Edison. O&R spokesperson Alan Freedman said the utility plans a pilot audit program to evaluate which low-income efficiency measures are most effective. The company plans to form a transition team to explore how the merger can affect DSM programs, and Freedman says it may make some of the funds generated by the merger available for DSM purposes. Sustainable Minnesota, Winter 1998. Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Minnesota Building, Suite 1106, 46 E Fourth St., St. Paul, MN 55101. Web site: Energy and Housing Report, May 1998. 9124 Bradford Road., Silver Spring, MD 20901-4918. Tel:(301)565-ALFA; Fax:(301)565-3298.

Breaking in With Windows. Energy-efficient windows are still used in only 35% of residential construction, though they'd be cost-effective in about 80% of all homes. To help efficient windows further saturate the market, the Alliance to Save Energy has joined with the U.S. Department of Energy and 31 members of the window and glass industries to create the Efficient Window Collaborative (EWC). The collaborative aims to double the market share of efficient windows by 2005. The EWC is targeting homeowners and sales staff. They are pushing energy-efficient mortgages as a way to finance the windows, which often have a high first cost. They are also teaching builders and contractors how to market efficient windows-and make more money. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is offering technical support to the program, from writing computer software for testing windows (see Software, the Key to Effective Ratings, p. 39) to monitoring homes with energy-efficient windows in order to document their performance. Center for Building Science News, Winter 1998. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Center for Building Science, M/S 90-3058, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, CA 94720. Tel:(510)486-4835; Fax:(510)486-5394; E-mail:; Web site:

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