Issue 23
July 29, 2019
In This Issue of Unplugged
States step up on appliance standards as the federal government goes backwards
US map
July 18, 2019
Blog post

States took the lead on new appliance efficiency standards during the first half of 2019, helping to counter some of the federal government's efforts to stall and even reverse energy and water efficiency progress. Legislators in ten states and the District of Columbia filed bills to adopt appliance standards for more than 15 products not covered by national standards. Many also sought to push back against the proposed federal rollback of light bulb standards, by putting them into state law.

Continue reading the blog post  
DOE muddying the waters for efficient dishwashers

On July 16, 2019, DOE published a proposed rule on dishwashers that grants a petition from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a DC-based advocacy group. The group's plan is opposed by both manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates. The proposed rule would create a new product class for dishwashers with a cycle time of less than one hour that would, at least initially, not have to meet any standards. 

CEI's request is unwarranted because dishwashers that meet current standards and have the option of a short cycle are already widely available on the market.  Dishwasher manufacturers today are providing consumers with wide-ranging choices of quiet, efficient machines that provide excellent washing performance while also providing the option of a short cycle.

In the proposed rule, DOE proposes that current standards for energy and water use would not apply to the new product class. This move runs afoul of an anti-backsliding provision in the appliance standards law that prevents the weakening of existing standards. If less-efficient dishwashers go to market, consumers will pay more on their energy and water bills as a result.
DOE sides with gas industry on condensing technology

Gas furnace
On July 11, 2019, the Department of Energy (DOE) reversed course and sided with the gas industry, at the expense of consumers, by indicating it plans to ignore energy-efficient condensing technology when developing future efficiency standards for gas furnaces and water heaters.
DOE is responding to a petition submitted by the gas industry in late 2018 related to furnaces and commercial water heaters. The gas industry asked DOE to revoke proposed standards published in 2016 that reflect condensing-level efficiency performance for some furnaces and commercial water heaters. (Condensing furnaces and water heaters capture additional heat from the flue gases.) The industry also asked DOE to issue a policy statement that would forbid the consideration of condensing technology as the basis for any future efficiency standard.
We pointed out that the proposed rules would eliminate consideration of standards that have the potential to save consumers and businesses more than $100 billion, and that DOE should stick with its past approach of carefully considering costs and benefits of standards based on condensing technology.
The gas industry has argued for years that these more efficient units should be a separate product class, so manufacturers can continue selling wasteful, outdated models. Although DOE has disagreed with the gas industry's argument as recently as 2016, it is now reversing its decision to side with the gas industry.

Read the Press Statement
DOE issues proposal that could gut US appliance standards

In a June 11, 2019 blog post, we wrote about a Department of Energy (DOE) proposal that could seriously undermine US energy efficiency standards for many appliances and products - everything from air conditioners and refrigerators to light bulbs and electric motors. Under the proposed rule, a manufacturer could propose for itself alternate test procedures for determining compliance. And if DOE did not reject the proposed procedures in 30 days, they would automatically be permitted. Since DOE has almost never processed these types of applications in 30 days, the proposal is tantamount to allowing manufacturers to write their own test procedures. Making matters worse, the rules do not require DOE to make the applications public, so no one would know if a manufacturer were using an alternate test procedure it had designed itself. In some cases, under DOE's proposed rule, a manufacturer might not have to test products at all.
In an unusual move, DOE decided not to hold a public meeting on the proposal. They reaffirmed the decision even after multiple organizations requested a meeting and noted that DOE had always held public hearings on proposed rules. DOE eventually relented, holding a 2-hour public hearing webinar. On Friday, July 12, DOE also re-opened the public comment period. The deadline for comments is August 6. Comments can be filed by following this link.
Changes to DOE "Process Rule" would  inhibit efficiency progress

research papers
In February DOE proposed changes to the process it uses to develop revised and new appliance standards (the "Process Rule") that, if finalized, would hamstring progress on future efficiency standards. The proposal garnered a lot of attention, including during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill, two very well-attended DOE public hearings and more than 47,000 comments filed to the docket. While some aspects of the proposal make sense such as using the same regulatory process for consumer and commercial products, the overall proposal appears designed to help DOE avoid setting future efficiency standards rather than to advance the energy conservation in line with the national appliance standards law.

Our comments to the docket highlighted a dozen specific concerns with the proposal. We fear that DOE's proposal to make the process legally binding would create more litigation and set up legal conflicts with deadlines enacted by Congress. The proposal would reverse past legal interpretations that have enabled pragmatic, negotiated regulations benefiting both manufacturers and consumers. DOE also has proposed additional rulemaking steps that will lengthen the process and that appear designed to give the agency more opportunities to decide to leave standards unchanged. The proposal would eliminate consideration of individual standards that might save as much as $7 billion worth of energy, arguing that this amount is not significant. And DOE intends to put increased emphasis on using industry test procedures, even if those procedures are inferior from a consumer's perspective for producing fair and representative ratings.

Our colleagues at NRDC pointed out that the proposal flies in the face of past legal decisions, and the attorneys general of fourteen states, the District of Columbia and New York City detailed the many legal problems with the proposal.

Many manufacturer representatives also raised concerns about aspects of DOE's proposal, especially features that increase rather than decrease regulatory and legal uncertainty and inhibit the development of consensus based standards. DOE has said a final revised process rule will emerge later this year.

Proposal to merge HVAC standards would undercut savings

Furnace fan
AHRI furnace fan petition
In October 2018, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) petitioned DOE to merge the standards for furnace fan electricity use and gas furnace heating performance and asked DOE to forgo enforcing the furnace fan standard while considering this change. DOE immediately announced it would not enforce the furnace fan standard slated to take effect in July 2019.

We  and many others filed comments, pointing out that merging the gas and electricity standards for these products would raise various concerns. It would effectively eliminate the existing furnace fan standard for at least half the current market, and the metric it would create would be useless for comparing products' relative operating costs. It would harm manufacturers that have already invested to comply with standards. Fortunately, a few months later,  AHRI changed their mind about non-enforcement and DOE quickly rescinded that policy. Nevertheless, the proposal to merge the metric remains a live topic and  DOE has said it will issue a proposed rule later this year. We've argued that DOE can streamline regulatory reviews by looking at any changes to the furnace electricity and gas use standards concurrently without merging them into a single metric.

State of the states

US map Governors in Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada and Washington signed appliance standards bills in 2019,  following the lead of California and Vermont. 

S ee state standards blog post for details.

California sign Update on California Energy Commission Rulemakings
Spray sprinkler bodies
In April, the California Energy Commission (CEC) proposed new standards for spray sprinkler bodies, which are used as part of in-ground irrigation systems. Spray sprinkler bodies that meet the proposed standards regulate water pressure to reduce water waste. CEC estimates that the standards would save more than 150 billion gallons of water each year after stock turnover. California would follow Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, and Washington, which have already adopted standards for spray sprinkler bodies. CEC plans to finalize the standards later this summer. 

Air compressors
CEC recently joined Vermont, Colorado and Washington in adopting minimum energy efficiency standards for large rotary air compressors. All four states have adopted the federal compressor standards that were completed under the Obama administration, but which the Trump administration has refused to make official through publication in the Federal Register. The standards cover only the largest industrial air compressors which make up about 2% of the US compressor market, but account for about 50% of compressor energy consumption.  Pending litigation could force the Trump administration to put these and several other standards withheld from publication in place for the entire country.

Hearth products
In May, the CEC published a draft staff report proposing new standards for  gas hearth products. Hearth products, which include gas fireplaces and gas log sets, are currently not subject to any efficiency standards in the U.S. CEC's proposed standards would eliminate standing pilot lights and minimize the use of on-demand pilots. The standards would also require a minimum efficiency of 70% for heating fireplaces. As a next step, CEC plans to initiate a formal rulemaking proceeding to adopt the proposed standards.

For more information on CEC activity, consult this website:  CEC appliance efficiency rulemakings.

Want to learn more? 
If your state is interested in pursuing standards, please check out our 
States Go First  report and overview or  contact Marianne DiMascio  at ASAP for more information.
DOE tinkering with test procedures
test meter In March, DOE published a  request for information (RFI) regarding how test procedures could be more representative. Test procedures that reflect how products are actually used in the field are critical to the success of efficiency standards. However, as we explained in our comments  on the RFI, it appears that DOE may be considering changes that would make test procedures less representative. In particular, the RFI suggested that test procedures that capture multiple modes of operation or cycle settings somehow do not reflect an "average use cycle." If DOE were to restrict the range of modes or settings measured during a test, consumers would no longer have good information about the range of a product's operation, and manufacturers could exploit the test to get better ratings. In our comments we also outlined six ways that test procedures could be improved to be more representative, such as by capturing a range of load points (including part-load operation), capturing "network" mode for connected products, and addressing software and firmware updates.

Canada finalizes new standards

US Canada flags
In June, Canada finalized new standards for a range of heating products that go beyond the efficiency levels in the U.S. The new standards for residential and commercial gas-fired hot water boilers and gas-fired instantaneous water heaters are all based on condensing-level performance. The new standards also require condensing-level performance for commercial gas-fired storage water heaters for use in new installations. (The standards for replacement storage units are equivalent to those in the U.S.) Canada also set standards for gas fireplaces, which will eliminate standing pilot lights-a significant source of energy waste-and require a minimum efficiency for heating fireplaces. The standards for the various heating products will take effect between 2020 and 2025.
Canada also finalized new standards for commercial and industrial pumps, miscellaneous refrigeration equipment, ceiling fans, beverage vending machines,  walk-in refrigeration systems and single package vertical air conditioners and heat pumps, all at levels and with compliance dates aligned with U.S. standards.

For more information, see NR Canada energy efficiency regulations.
Six ways we have slashed US energy use by a fifth

Graph of 5 top energy savings policies BLOG POST | June 12, 2019
By  Steven Nadel , Executive Director, ACEEE 

Major energy efficiency policies slashed US energy use by about 20% in 2017, saving a whopping 25 quads of energy -the amount used in California, Texas, and Florida combined. 

Two US policies now at risk accounted for the majority of these savings. Vehicle fuel economy standards and appliance efficiency standards saved 14.3 quadrillion Btus, about 60% of the total savings and about 14% of all US energy use.


Energy Star logo ENERGY STAR is revising specifications for 14 products and developing new specifications for two. 

New product specifications under development: 
Medical imaging equipment and transformers

Product specifications currently under revision: 
Cooking products: Hot food holding cabinets and commercial ovens
Electronics: Audio/video and computers
HVAC: Central AC, air source heat pumps, air purifiers, gas condensing water heaters, heat pump water heaters, high efficiency gas storage water heaters, solar water heaters, whole home gas tankless water heaters
Other: Electric vehicle supply equipment, p ool pumps, and v ending machines

Below is a deeper look at revisions for two products we are following: air purifiers/room air cleaners and electric vehicle charging systems.

Air purifiers
air purifier ENERGY STAR is in the process of revising the specification for air purifiers, which has not been updated since 2004. EPA estimates that 45% of air purifiers on the market meet the current specification. Typical air purifiers that do not meet the ENERGY STAR specification use more than 500 kWh per year on average, equivalent to the annual energy consumption of an average new refrigerator. The new draft specification would change the test method to measure removal of smoke (rather than dust) and target the efficiency criteria to reflect the top 25% of models. EPA plans to finalize the new specification later this summer.

Electric vehicle supply equipment

EV charger
EPA is revising the ENERGY STAR specification for electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), also known as electric vehicle chargers. Version 1.0, released in 2017, covers AC Level I, Level II and dual input chargers. The specs set safety and communication guidelines as well as reduce standby energy use by 40%. Version 1.1 would expand the scope to include DC chargers and develop a test method to measure the efficiency of these products.
Fun facts

Question: What percentage of US homes have central air conditioning?

Correct answer is d) 62%

The percentage in new homes is even higher at more than 80%. According to Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project: "It's pretty hard to buy a new home in the U.S. in the last 20 years that doesn't have air conditioning, no matter where you live."

Learn more in  " 8 Charts on How Americans Use Air Conditioning " by David Montgomery
For more info: 

Marianne DiMascio, Appliance Standards Awareness Project

[email protected]


Standards news
Newspaper on wooden table

In the news: light bulbs
light bulbs shovel dirt

New York Times op-ed:

USA Today editorial:

Roll call: 
Missed deadlines at DOE mounting
DOE has  missed 18 legal deadlines for appliance standards and another dozen for test procedures since March 2016. R ulemaking work has picked up recently with DOE issuing a number of test procedure proposals and Requests for Information (RFIs) this year. However, even with the increased uptick in activity, DOE is likely to miss additional legal deadlines in the future. 

For more details on dates for specific product rulemakings, see DOE's regulatory agenda.

Who's for and against DOE's light bulb rollback? 

May 28, 2019
With the public comment period now closed on DOE's proposal to rollback light bulb energy efficiency standards, the verdict is in. ASAP has been tracking DOE rulemaking work for about twenty years and we've never seen a DOE proposal generate opposition from such a wide range of stakeholders and from so many individual citizens.

Continue reading blog post by Chris Granda.  
EU Coolproducts update
New European Union energy labels for home appliances in March 2021. 
EU flag
Spring WaterSense  newsletter 
Sprinkler spruce-up, bathroom remodel, and swimming pool savings

Fun facts
Window AC

According to the 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, what percentage of US homes have central air conditioning? 

a) 35%
b) 42%
c) 48%
d) 62%

See answer below.