Understanding the Energy Efficiency of Your Appliances

Most American readers probably associate EnergyStar with energy efficiency appliances. For utilities, the energy standards mean there are more efficient appliances available. Used correctly, they can make a significant difference in energy efficiency.

Major factors in appliance efficiency

What makes appliances more energy efficient? The Energy Efficiency Standards Group at Berkeley Lab supports the U.S. Department of Energy’s Appliance & Equipment Standards program, and it “has primary responsibility for analyzing and reporting on the impacts and savings potential of energy efficiency standards on a range of products….” The lab lists eight major factors that they consider in evaluating new appliances:

  • equipment price and markups analysis;
  • energy use analysis;
  • consumer life-cycle cost… and payback period… analyses;
  • shipments analysis;
  • national impact analysis…, which considers national energy savings… and consumer net present value…;
  • emissions impact analysis;
  • employment impact analysis; and
  • regulatory impact analysis.

EES Products

Rebate programs

The problem you might face is getting the more efficient appliances into use — especially where the initial investment is large or the financial savings is uncertain.

We said that EnergyStar.gov's list of rebates stretches to 2,660 appliances at this writing, and the term “appliances” should be read very broadly. Here, it includes a range of supplies like CFL- and LED bulbs to large appliances like refrigerators, to installed HVAC equipment.

More recently, though, products like TVs and cable boxes have received attention in the media for their energy consumption. Often this is because they draw power even while turned off. These are now included in utility appliance efficiency programs programs.

The Most Important Appliances to Upgrade

From an efficiency standpoint, the most important appliances a customer can upgrade are the ones that would reduce consumption the most. The DOE provides a list of typical wattages of various appliances, which is a great starting place in prioritizing rebate programs. Also included in their article is a formula that will tell customers how many watts their appliances are using. To be most accurate, they should check manuals (often available on the Internet even if they’re lost or discarded) to see how many watts a each appliance uses when idle.

Another option for less technically inclined customers is to rely on some general rules in evaluating which appliances likely use the most energy:

  • Age: If your appliance is old, it's most likely using more power than necessary. In some cases a new appliance will pay for itself even if the old one works.
  • Size: It seems too obvious, but bigger appliances generally use more power than smaller ones.
  • Heat: Put your hand on the plug adaptor. If it's hot, then it's drawing power. I've especially noticed this with computers and smart phone chargers.

Limitations of appliance upgrades

The time has come to do more. More efficient appliances are a good thing. Rebate programs that help your customers replace outdated devices can still help with energy efficiency (and customer satisfaction), but appliances are inherently limited by behavioral, budgetary, and technological factors:

  1. Most customers have a limited space, attention, funds, as well as aesthetic tolerances for appliance upgrades and the most efficient appliances will not always fit into their homes and businesses — literally or figuratively speaking.
  2. Technology has to advance enough before appliance replacement is justified.
  3. Appliance rebates seldom provide opportunities for positive interaction with customers in the intervening years.
  4. A new appliance, even if it is ultra efficient usually cannot save more power than it consumes, and, because adds to power consumption, neither utilities nor customers gain by multiplying appliances beyond a certain limit.

Schedule a demonstration to learn how Brilliency can help you go beyond the CFL with better energy efficiency appliances.


"The average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off (or in standby mode). On a national basis, standby power accounts for more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of annual U.S. electricity consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs." - Energy Star

It’s worth reminding customers that many of the appliances found as candidates for replacement using the tips above are also good to unplug — in some cases even after they’re upgraded, and even when they’re off. And here's the list of the best appliances to unplug for you to save the most:

  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Cable boxes
  • Stereos
  • Game Systems

What if you don't want to remember to unplug appliances all the time? Using a power strip to turn off many appliances at once is a simple solution. You can use traditional ones or there are smart strips that power everything off when you turn one appliance off. For example, you could set your TV as the master and when the TV is off, the video and stereo systems will automatically power off too.

Beyond power strips, there are other options for you to set it and forget it. Timers and smart plugs that allow appliances to be disconnected can also help.

More and more utilities are using digital communications and behavior based energy efficiency programs to remind their customers to do these things.

Schedule a demo today to see how Brilliency helps your customers more effectively choose and manage their energy efficiency appliances.

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