Do you know why household appliances are getting better? It's not magic. There's a huge investment required to design new products, plus the costs to retool manufacturing equipment, product packaging and marketing. And unless you're intimately familiar with a company or industry, it's not obvious. So here are the drivers for improving our houses, including household appliances, that I've discovered since starting this blog in 2006.
- Government laws – have been passed requiring household products to use less energy. The best example is the phasing out of the incandescent light bulb through government laws after more than 100 years (learn more about The History of the Light Bulb).
- Building codes – enforced at the state and local government level, have been tightened to make houses more energy and water efficient.
- Remodeling – has also been affected by the EPA lead safe laws issued in 2010, to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in children.
- Housing industry – impacted by huge drop in new home construction, has accelerated new products to spur remodeling and home renovations for existing houses.
Government Policies to Improve Household Appliances
Most homeowners are familiar with the EnergyStar program which started in 1992 as a voluntary labeling program to identify and promote energy-efficient products. While it wasn't the first energy initiative, it became the most visible with the introduction of the EnergyStar brand. Soon the newer WaterSense brand will be equally recognizable. And you should only hire contractors that are lead safe certified, to keep you home and family safe.
Here are just a few of the federal government's actions to lower energy consumption in the U.S. If you want to learn more, there's a fascinating website, DownsizingtheGovernment.org, that provides a more detailed history of energy regulations as far back as coal, which was a primary source of heat in the 1930s.
- 1975, Energy Policy and Conservation Act established a federal energy conservation program for major household appliances.
- 1987, National Appliance Energy Conservation Act set minimum efficiency standards for many household appliances – refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, freezers, room air conditioners, clothes dryers, clothes washers, dishwashers, kitchen ranges, ovens and water heaters.
- 1993, increased efficiency standards by 30% for models manufactured after January 1, 1993.
- 2001 saw another 30% efficiency improvement regulated.
Calculating the Efficiency of Household Appliances
What should you consider when buying a new home appliance? Beyond the look of home appliances, it's important to consider how efficient each product is with respect to energy and water usage. In fact this article came about because there are more and more calculators online, to help you compare appliances. A great website to help you do your research before heading to the store is EnergyUseCalculator.com.
Here are the current calculators they have related to your home, and they've got them for electronics too, which is great because that's what's driving up everyone's monthly utility bills. (Read: The True Cost of Home Ownership)
|Energy for Household Appliances
|Energy Used by Home Electronics
These calculators are really easy to use, so don't shy away. They explain how the information is calculated, provide typical energy usage for the given product and make it easy to see what's driving your electric bill up. For example, here's what you'll see for the “refrigerator calculator”.