Refrigerators and freezers shipped in 2014 will be 25% more efficient than those sold today, if a newly proposed Department of Energy rule goes into effect as written. Since the refrigerator is one of the most energy-hungry appliances in the typical home, the upgraded efficiency standards have the potential to save a lot of energy and money. The savings amount to about $1.4 million annually in savings for the economy, when the increased cost of producing the efficient equipment is balanced against consumer energy savings, and the value of reduced pollution from electric power plants.
For individuals, the savings range from about $10 in energy savings over the life of a compact refrigerator, up to about $148 for upright freezers, according to the proposed rule.
The changes are part of a suite of appliance efficiency standards being upgraded, resulting in cumulative savings to consumers of as much as $300 billion through 2030. Boosting energy efficiency is the smartest and easiest way to reduce energy demand and pollution easier, for instance, than closing a coal-fired power plant and building enough wind turbines to make as much electricity. (The improved efficiency of refrigerators and freezers alone will reduce demand for the energy produced by the equivalent of as many as nine coal-fired power plants, according to the Department of Energy.)
"These standards will help us once again dramatically reduce the energy used by refrigerators in American homes," Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said, in announcing the new standards. "As technologies continue to improve to meet these latest standards, we'll help to address climate change while saving families across the country billions of dollars."
If you're buying now, look for Energy Star refrigerators and freezers, which must use 20% less energy than others on the market. Be aware, however, that the testing requirements for Energy Star refrigerators have been heavily criticized for failing to gauge performance in real world conditions, when the ice maker is left on 24/7, for instance. The result? Some models use two-thirds more energy than advertised on the yellow Energy Star labels. The new energy efficiency standards for refrigerators and freezers have taken into account those criticisms.
Next up for efficiency upgrades: residential central air conditioners, room air conditioners, furnaces, clothes washers, clothes dryers and dishwashers.
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