From the Lab to the Marketplace (1995)

Setting the Standard for Energy Efficiency

$110 Billion

Residential consumers spend $110 billion each year on energy for appliances and heating and cooling equipment. At LBNL, our energy policy work includes developing and analyzing appliance standards, many of which have become law. These standards have already saved U.S. consumers $1.9 billion and will result in a $58 billion savings, net of extra up-front costs, by the year 2015. The cumulative federal investment has been $50 million—just one one-thousandth of the benefits to be realized by consumers. Extending these standards to commercial-sector products can pay even higher dividends.

The DOE national laboratories have supported public policy efforts by serving as a key resource for legislators seeking definitive, independent data and technology assessments. As part of this effort, LBNL has become the national center for appliance standards analyses. New generations of appliances have been spawned by these efforts. In addition to saving energy for consumers and the nation, these standards help make U.S. manufacturers more competitive in the global marketplace.

The two sets of data reveal the dramatic impact of appliance standards. The 1990 refrigerator standard eliminated many models sold on the market as of mid 1989. None of the pre-1990-standard models met the forthcoming 1993 standard. By 1993, however, some products beat the standard by as much as 15%. Each point represents a specific top-mounted refrigerator-freezer with an automatic defrost feature. (Note that the standards are expressed as a linear relationship between a refrigerator's volume and its energy use, rather than as single energy-use values. "Adjusted volume" is an adaptation of the nominal refrigerator volume, in which freezer volume is inflated by a factor of 1.63 to yield an equivalent refrigerated volume.)

LBNL's program provides the technical, economic, and manufacturer-impact analyses on which DOE bases mandatory standards that now apply to all major U.S. appliances: air conditioners, clothes washers and dryers, freezers, furnaces, heat pumps, refrigerators, televisions, and water heaters. In addition to technology research, LBNL has provided DOE with pivotal support for understanding how the market functions and how certain market barriers to energy efficiency warrant legislative measures such as standards and labeling. Representatives from many countries come to LBNL for guidance on developing their own appliance standards.

LBNL monitors emerging technologies, identifying those developments that enable commercially viable improvements in appliance efficiency. For inclusion in proposed standards, new technologies must reduce the total life-cycle cost of buying and operating an appliance, while maintaining or increasing the level of service provided.

Energy and Environmental Benefits

DOE has invested about $50 million in standards. This sum includes development of test procedures, technical analyses, the administrative costs of public hearings, publication of laws and supporting documents, and program management.

Current appliance standards have already saved consumers $1.9 billion in energy costs and will ultimately save them $58 billion (the lifetime savings of units installed between 1990 and 2015, net of the extra investment costs). Coincidentally, U.S. consumers will avoid having to pay for the construction of eighty 250-megawatt electric power plants. These standards yield a benefit-to-cost ratio of almost 2.5 for consumers—energy savings are 2.5 times greater than the up-front cost premium paid for the appliance.

Appliance standards yield sizable environmental benefits as well. In 2015, these standards will enable us to avoid emissions amounting to 53 million tons of CO2, 111,000 tons of SO2, and 108,000 tons of NOx. (These savings assume that chlorofluorocarbons will be phased out of refrigerators and freezers beginning in 1996.)

Standards for the Residential Building Envelope

About half of all residential energy is used for heating and cooling. Although improving the efficiency of air conditioners and furnaces is important, for optimal savings the building's envelope must also be considered. For more than ten years, LBNL has provided technical support to efforts by government and industry to develop building energy standards and guidelines.

Between 1980 and 1983, LBNL researchers created a large database of energy consumption in prototypical new houses in 45 U.S. locations using the DOE-2 program. We then converted this technical information into "Energy Calculation Slide Rules" that could be used by the general public. This project, conducted for DOE's Affordable Housing through Energy Conservation Program, won the 1984 Progressive Architecture award for research.

Recognizing in 1986 the growing importance of personal computers, LBNL converted this database into a simple computer program, PEAR (Program for Energy Analysis of Residences). PEAR gave builders and architects a fast and accurate method to estimate heating and cooling energy needs for any location in the U.S. LBNL also gave the database to Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL) researchers, who were developing the mandatory building energy standard for federal buildings (known as COSTSAFR), and to ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers), to provide the technical basis of ASHRAE's 90.2 Residential Energy Standard, completed in 1993.

In 1987, LBNL became a PNL subcontractor, charged with updating the PEAR database for PNL's flexible computer tool, ARES (Automated Residential Energy Standards), which can generate custom energy budgets for many locations in the U.S. In addition, LBNL has distributed several hundred copies of the PEAR program to home builders, energy offices, and government and utility organizations. We have also used the databases in our forecasting and policy analysis efforts.

The Future

The U.S. still does not have a uniform building energy standard, although standards exist for federal buildings and federally assisted housing, and an increasing number of states have residential energy standards. The ASHRAE-90.2 residential energy standard was approved in 1993 after a nine-year effort. Although it has no legal force, this standard will be influential as it represents the consensus of much of the building industry. Consequently, many states may be motivated to adopt or adapt it, particularly those that have no standards. LBNL will continue to provide technical support for the development and implementation of residential building energy standards.

Built into the national legislation for establishing appliance standards are provisions to periodically revise and update them. As technology continues to advance, and economic conditions change, existing standards become obsolete and potential avenues for new savings are created. DOE recently proposed new standards for eight appliance products: water heaters, fluorescent ballasts, room air conditioners, pool/spa heaters, mobile home furnaces, non- ducted heating equipment, ranges and ovens, and televisions. LBNL analysis has shown that the proposed standards would save as much money and energy as all existing standards and would result in an actual reduction in total residential energy demand—despite the projected growth of the buildings stock. LBNL will continue to provide technical support for this process.

LBNL is spearheading new efforts to establish efficiency standards for systems used to distribute cooling within residences (i.e., duct systems). Our efforts include conducting technical analyses to support stricter codes for duct installation and leading an ASHRAE effort to standardize efficiency determinations for residential thermal distribution systems. The California Institute for Energy Efficiency is an important partner with LBNL in this work.

National energy policy is just beginning to apply efficiency standards to nonresidential uses. LBNL has analyzed ballast standards and is working on standards for lighting in commercial buildings and small motors. LBNL has been given the task of assessing new technologies specified in the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

LBNL is helping DOE evaluate the technology and policy options for the nonregulatory development and commercialization of new energy-efficient products. Innovative "market- pull" approaches and major provisions of the Administration's Energy Partnerships for a Strong Economy program will implement this Congressional mandate. Many new programs are partnerships with industry and utilities; others build on the buying-power of federal, state, and local governments to help create or expand markets for energy-saving products.