Issue 24
February 3, 2020
In This Issue of Unplugged
DOE published four new efficiency standards, bowing to court order
January 10, 2020
Blog post

It took a lawsuit, but today the Department of Energy (DOE) published the first new national appliance efficiency standards since 2017. The new standards, finalized under the Obama administration in December 2016 but withheld from official publication by the Trump administration, will cut energy waste for four product categories: portable air conditioners, commercial boilers, uninterruptible power supplies, and industrial air compressors. It's an eclectic bunch of products, but the savings really add up.

Continue reading the blog post.  
New DOE Rule Undercuts a Top US Policy for Saving Energy
In yet another attack on energy-saving policies, the Trump administration approved a rule in mid-January that will make it much more difficult to set new energy efficiency standards for many common appliances and equipment - from refrigerators, dishwashers and home furnaces to commercial air conditioners and industrial motors. These standards reduce harmful pollution, save the average US household $500 each year, and according to the DOE's own fact sheet, will save US consumers and businesses about $2 trillion in total by 2030.

The Department of Energy (DOE) made major changes to its Process Rule that will add new steps to the already lengthy standard-setting process. It will significantly increase the energy savings threshold needed to trigger the process and allow manufacturers to largely design the testing that decides if the products meet standards.

Currently, efficiency standards cover more than 60 categories of appliances and equipment that account for 90% of home energy use and 60% of energy use in commercial buildings. Based on ACEEE's research, appliance standards are the top US policy for saving energy in buildings.

Check out ASAP's full  press statement on this matter.  
Federal light bulb rules recap 
Over the last 15 years federal and state policy have supported the development of light emitting diode (LED) technology. LEDs slash the electricity used by common light bulbs, saving consumers money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, the Trump administration tried to thwart both the law and the market by putting the brakes on the LED transition. ASAP's allies are challenging the administration's actions in court and states are fighting back. In the meantime, consumers continue to enthusiastically embrace LED light bulbs.
In September, the Department of Energy (DOE) illegally withdrew a final rule it had issued in 2017 that expanded pending light bulb standards from covering about half of all light bulbs sold to covering more than 90%. At the end of 2019, DOE also ducked review requirements set by Congress to avoid upgrading existing standards for pear-shaped incandescent light bulbs. DOE asserted that these actions prevent automatic standards slated for January 1, 2020 from taking effect. 
On January 1, 2020 state light bulb standards in Vermont, Nevada, Colorado, and Washington state came into effect, and California expanded its existing state light bulb regulations. More states may adopt light bulb standards in 2020. Earthjustice, NRDC, and the Attorneys General of 16 states and the City of New York have sued DOE over the withdrawal of the 2017 final rule. Additional suits may be filed.
Sales data through the middle of 2019 suggests that over half of all light bulbs sold are LEDs. There are now affordable, energy efficient, long-lived LED options available for nearly every light bulb need. The Trump administration's illegal attempts to undermine light bulb standards can slow, but not stop the LED transition.

Trouble Ahead for U.S. Appliance Efficiency Standards
The US Department of Energy's (DOE) plan for national appliance standards for 2020 has come into focus, and the picture is not pretty. Hard on the heels of its rollback of light bulb standards in late 2019, the administration finalized its re-write of the process used for developing new standards. With this administration yet to complete a single standard update of its own and none close to completion, the re-write seems squarely aimed at tying the hands of future administrations. A pending dishwasher final rule would not only roll back that standard, it would also take aim at the law's provision prohibiting new standards that are weaker than current ones. Another pending rule would allow manufacturers to self-assign waivers from test procedures, and yet another would undercut standards for cook tops.
Continue reading the  blog post .  
Clothes dryers test procedure: DOE proposal lacks needed updates

Clothes dryers are among the DOE-regulated products with the largest energy savings potential, ranking fourth out of 45 products evaluated for our 2016 report, Next Generation Standards . An improved test method could unlock even larger savings, boosting that ranking. In our comments,  cosigned by several allies and filed in response to DOE's July 2019 proposed test procedure revisions, we argued that DOE should improve the procedure by making it more realistic: the current test procedure does not accurately reflect the variety of load sizes consumers dry, the cycle settings consumers use, or the clothing consumers dry. Research by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance shows that more realistic load sizes by itself could affect the relative efficiency rankings of dryers. Although DOE has proposed some useful minor changes to the test procedure, the Department did not propose to address any of the more consequential weaknesses in the current test procedure.

Motors: DOE makes an about-face, won't expand to more motors

Like dryers, motors are among the products with the largest potential energy savings. They ranked sixth in our 2016 report assessing the savings potential for updated standards. That ranking does not account for the potentially large additional savings that could be achieved by bringing additional motors including advanced technologies into consideration, nor does it account for improved or expanded standards for small motors. But those expansions cannot happen until DOE first establishes test procedures for those motors.
Unfortunately, after indicating an interest in extending the federal motors test procedures to apply to more motor sizes and types in an initial rulemaking document published in July 2017, DOE did an about-face in 2019. Without explanation, DOE simply stated it had decided against federal test procedures covering more motors. That's a shame because absent a unified test procedure, manufacturers can make any claim they'd like about some motors' efficiency, making reliable comparisons difficult. In our comments responding to DOE's proposed test procedures revisions, we urged DOE to return to the more expansive approach initially envisioned. We also supported a few minor but important clarifications. In separate comments filed in response to DOE's initiation of its review of small motors standards , we urged DOE to explore addressing more motor types and higher efficiency levels.
Clothes washer standards review process gets started

DOE kicked off the review process for clothes washers with an August 2019 Request for Information. In comments co-filed with Consumer Federation of America and the California Energy Commission, we showed that a range of both top-loading and front-loading washers not only meet the current Energy Star level, which represents 25% energy savings and 33% water savings, but many also significantly exceed it. About half of current sales meet Energy Star levels. We also urged DOE to consider a change to washer ratings since current ratings for larger capacity washers are inflated.

State of the states

New York

On December 6, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to update water-saving standards for four common plumbing products-faucets, showerheads, toilets, and urinals. The new law is expected to cut water use by 3.7 billion gallons and save consumers $72 million on utility bills in 2025 alone. The law ( adopted as A2286/S354 ) updates water efficiency standards for plumbing products to   WaterSense levels (similar to Energy Star but for water-using products). 

Read the  blog post.


In spring 2019, the Washington legislature adopted a package of e fficiency standards for 17 products; and on January 6, 2020, the Washington State Department of Commerce completed a rulemaking for 13 of those products. The rules specify the scope, standard, and the testing procedure for each product and note if and how each product must be listed or marked to show compliance with the standard. The Commerce Department will work on rules for the remaining standards (air compressors, general service lamps, portable electric spas, and uninterruptible power supplies) in 2020. See the  Commerce appliance standards page for more info.


California's expanded light bulb efficiency standards went into effect on January 1, 2020 after a court denied a temporary restraining order filed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the American Lighting Association (ALA) to stop implementation of the standards. Subsequently, NEMA and ALA dropped their lawsuit against  California.  

Though federal standards usually preempt state standards,  California and Nevada have a special carve-out granted by Congress which allows the states to enforce light bulb standards. As of January 1, light bulbs sold in California are required to meet an efficacy of 45 lumens per watt or greater. This will require either LED or CFL technology. Most bulb shapes are covered.  (Federal preemption places more limits on other states, but any state can still implement standards for some bulb categories, including certain reflectors and globe-shaped bulbs.) Federal standards were on track to require the same efficiency levels until the Trump administration's DOE rolled back the rules in September and December 2019.

The light bulb standards will save Californians billions of dollars in electricity bills annually as the more efficient bulbs are installed.  

California also adopted new lawn spray sprinkler standards in August, which will require spray sprinkler bodies sold in the state to be pressure-regulated, which reduces overspray and misting. Pressure-regulated sprinkler bodies use about 20% less water than non-pressure-regulated sprinkler bodies, and the new standard is expected to save 400 million gallons of water per day within the decade.

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.
International standards

This year in the US, states like Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington took the lead in passing new standards for energy efficient appliances. But let's not forget our global partners in saving energy: a few countries passed some notable new energy standards too.

As ASAP noted in its summer newsletter, Canada   finalized new standards for a number of residential and commercial heating products.

In India, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) updated its ceiling fan standards in August . According to Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program (CLASP), 40 million ceiling fans are sold in India every year, and they account for 20 percent of residential electricity use in Indian households. The new policy re-scaled energy efficiency ratings for ceiling fans to reflect a five-fold improvement in efficient electricity use and made meeting energy performance thresholds mandatory rather than voluntary.

In October, the European Commission adopted  more stringent electronic display standards, which apply to things like TVs and computer monitors. The new standards rely on a test method that more accurately captures the energy requirements of brighter, higher-resolution displays. The standard is expected to save 39 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity and 13 million tons (Mt) CO2-equivalent annually by 2030. Another way to think about it: 13 Mt of CO2-equivalent is as much carbon dioxide as you'd release from consuming 1.46 billion gallons of gasoline.

Finally, in Kenya a new minimum energy performance standard for air conditioners went into effect this year. The standard increased energy efficiency for this market by 11 percent, and since the worst-performing ACs were still using R-22 refrigerant (a hydrochlorofluorocarbon which has high global warming and ozone-depletion potential) the new standards effectively eliminated ACs using R-22 as well.

It's good to see countries around the world adopt these common-sense policies to meet consumer protection and environmental goals.
Research from ACEEE: Efficiency can cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050


In September, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a new report titled Halfway There: Energy Efficiency Can Cut Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Half by 2050. ACEEE researchers showed that by 2050 we can avoid using approximately 47 quadrillion BTUs of energy by realizing technically-possible and cost-effective improvements in a host of categories. Among them, appliance efficiency was found to be a significant avenue for energy use reduction. The report estimates that appliance and equipment efficiency, including updating and growing the Energy Star Program, could contribute about 6 percent of the total energy use reduction by 2050. 

Read the rest of the story here.
Fun facts

Question: How many gallons of water does an Energy Star-rater dishwasher use per cycle at most?

Correct answer is b) 3.5 gallons 

Although you might think Energy Star is only concerned with energy efficiency, an Energy Star dishwasher will also save water. The Environmental Protection Agency writes: "Using water-saving techniques can save you money, and diverts less water from our rivers, bays, and estuaries which helps keep the environment healthy. It can also reduce water and wastewater treatment costs and the amount of energy used to treat, pump, and heat water. This lowers energy demand, which helps prevent air pollution."

The minimum DOE standards permit dishwashers to use more water (up to 5 gallon per cycle), but, in a testament to the effectiveness of very energy and water efficient products, Energy Star dishwashers have earned a 90% percent market share, according to EPA.

Learn more at Energy Star's website.
For more info: 

Marianne DiMascio, Appliance Standards Awareness Project


Standards news
Newspaper on wooden table

Indoor farming looks like it could be the answer to feeding a hot and hungry planet; It's not that easy.

In the news: water efficiency

E&E news:

NBC News: 

Washington Post:
Updated hot tub standard could bring surprisingly big energy savings to states

January 13, 2020

As the weather gets frostier, you might consider a dip in a hot tub to warm up. While you're soaking in that spa, take comfort in the fact that an updated energy standard now covers how much electricity these toasty tubs can consume.

Lawmakers in Pennsylvania introduce bipartisan efficiency bill 

Reps. Wendi Thomas and Jen O'Mara from Pennsylvania produced a one-minute video to announce their bipartisan  appliance energy efficiency legislation (HB2136).

Check out the video here
Test your home appliance knowledge with this Wirecutter quiz

Laundry strategies, dish washing practices, and HEPA filter questions.

Winter  WaterSense  newsletter 
Shower head upgrades, DIY bathroom savings, and new WaterSense search tools.

Fun facts

How many gallons of water does an Energy Star-rated dishwasher use per cycle at most?

a) 5 gallons
b) 3.5 gallons
c) 3 gallons
d) 10 gallons

See answer below.