New Standards Proposed for Energy-Efficient Refrigerators and Clothes Washers

February 13, 2023 by Dan McCue
New Standards Proposed for Energy-Efficient Refrigerators and Clothes Washers
Kitchen Appliances. (Department of Energy photo)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy has proposed new energy-efficiency standards for refrigerators and clothes washers that it says will lower household energy costs and significantly reduce pollution. 

The standards have not been updated in over a decade. Department estimates suggest the proposals could save U.S. consumers $3.5 billion a year on their energy and water bills.

“With [these] proposals, we’re building on a decadeslong effort with industry to ensure tomorrow’s appliances work more efficiently and save Americans money,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in a written statement. 

“Over the last 40 years, at the direction of Congress, DOE has worked to promote innovation, improve consumers’ options, and raise efficiency standards for household appliances without sacrificing the reliability and performance that Americans have come to expect,” she said.

Previous DOE rulemakings have substantially increased the energy efficiency of refrigerators and clothes washers while allowing manufacturers the flexibility to continuously improve their products. 

As a result, today the typical new refrigerator uses 75% less energy than its 1973 counterpart, while offering roughly 20% more storage capacity and more useful features. 

In that 40-year span, DOE raised the efficiency standard for refrigerators three times. Similarly, today’s clothes washers use 70% less energy than in 1990 and offer 50% more tub capacity. The new proposed rules will continue this trajectory of innovation and savings. 

The products covered by these rules currently account for 5% of annual residential energy use, which amounts to 8% of residential electricity use in the United States. 

If adopted within DOE’s proposed timeframe, the new rules will come into effect in 2027. 

Department officials estimate the new rules to save consumers more than $60 billion over the ensuing 30 years of shipments. 

Households using new refrigerators and clothes washers will save an estimated $425 on their utility bill over the average life of the appliance with these standards in place, on top of the benefits Americans are experiencing from prior improvements. 

Over the next 30 years, the two rules are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 233 million metric tons — an amount roughly equivalent to the combined annual emissions of 29 million homes.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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  • clothes washers
  • Energy Department
  • energy efficiency
  • refrigerators
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