What’s One of the Most Cost-Effective Ways to Save Energy?

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Pop quiz: What’s one of the most cost-effective ways to save energy? It’s generally invisible to consumers and businesses, but can have a big impact on their pocketbooks.

Answer: Implementing energy efficiency standards is a powerful tool for cutting energy use in both homes and businesses.

The Department of Energy is charged with the task of developing these standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. Since the launch of standards in 1987, consumers and businesses have reaped $1 trillion in energy savings due to the standards, says Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

In fact, the benefits of standards have exceeded expectations, he says. “We looked at the 2013 products and prices for 10 products, and found that with efficiency standards, the performance of the products improved, the prices stayed the same or were lower, and the benefits were the energy savings,” he says.

Recently, the American Heating and Refrigeration Institute complained about the standards process, saying that Obama’s Climate Action Plan has spurred a rush of rule making. “Since 2001 there have been 88 new rule makings from the Department of Energy, 40 of these have been in the last three years and 22 have been in the last year as part of the administration’s Climate Action Plan,” the organization said in a press release.

AHRI says manufacturers can barely keep up, and that some of the rules include errors in assumptions. “What’s worse is that in their haste to pass and enforce these new rules, important facts and analyses as to the impact on climate change are being overlooked,” AHRI says in the press release. The organization says the process doesn’t provide enough transparency.

In fact, AHRI sued over two recent standards, asking for more modest increases in efficiency.

At issue are important refrigeration standards, says deLaski. The DOE called for maximum levels of cost-effective efficiency for refrigerators, walk-in coolers and other cooling devices,  he says. The standards are expected to boost energy efficiency by 10 percent to 30 percent, he says.

The DOE’s process is very transparent, and if anything, it takes too long to implement these standards, counters deLaski. “It takes three to five years to update a standard. If anything, that’s too long,” he says.

If all this seems like Greek to consumers and businesses, buying Energy Star appliances is the simplest way to benefit from efficient appliances, he says. These appliances usually have the highest levels of energy efficiency, and it’s not hard to identify them, he says.

So next time you head out to buy a frig, keep in mind: the standards that govern your appliances’s efficiency have saved us all $1 trillion in energy costs.

“Obama has done a good job with standards,” says deLaski.

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