Addressing Climate Impacts
Addressing and mitigating the impacts of climate change is a global challenge that warrants multiple solutions, including coordination and cooperation between governments and industry. AHAM’s actions on energy efficiency and the phase-out of refrigerants and foam-blowing agents with high global warming potential serve as a model for close engagement between regulators and manufacturers, in these cases with the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state governments in the United States, as well as with federal and provincial authorities in Canada. The result is significant progress in the reduction of greenhouse gases from home appliances.
A. Energy Efficiency
Life cycle analyses (LCA) of home appliances consistently show that their most significant environmental impact, by far, is due to the energy consumed during their useful life, i.e., when the appliances are actually used in the home. This impact dwarfs all other life cycle phases, including generating the materials used, manufacturing processes, and disposal at the end of life. For example, an AHAM analysis showed that over 80% of a dehumidifier’s overall environmental impact comes during use, and the same is true for a refrigerator: over 80% of the climate impact comes during its operational life. i. AHAM’s and Members’ Role in Establishing Federal Energy Efficiency Program AHAM and its members were significant contributors to establishing the federal energy efficiency regulatory program for home appliances, known as EPCA, and its improvement over time. AHAM and its members have worked closely over many years with environmental advocates and government to develop and establish a single, national marketplace that makes clear, consistent, and easily accessible information on energy efficiency available to all consumers and develop a program that sets nation-wide efficiency minimums and establishes reliable procedures for determining and verifying the energy and water consumption of home appliances. AHAM and its members continue to make significant contributions to EPCA. ii. Significant Improvements in Energy Efficiency AHAM’s most significant environmental advancement lies in the efficiency gains that home appliances have made over the past several decades. Energy efficiency improvement in home appliances is not only a pillar of product design for home appliance manufacturers, but it is the industry’s greatest environmental success story. New appliances often represent the most effective choice a consumer can make to reduce home energy use and costs. Even with the inception of the Department of Energy (DOE) appliance standard program, manufacturers continue to design products with improved energy and water efficiency and offer the technologically advanced products that meet consumer desires. • A modern refrigerator uses half the energy it did just a few decades ago and uses less energy than a 60‐watt incandescent light bulb, while offering consumers even greater convenience features. • Clothes washers of average efficiency can save a household more than 5,000 gallons of water and more than $150 in utility costs compared to a 10-year-old washer. • New clothes washers can also hold 20 percent more laundry than they did 20 years ago. Yet they are close to 90% more energy efficient.
The above graphs show aggregated energy use, as reported through testing, of appliances over the years.1 In comparison to appliance energy consumption in 1990, major appliances use at a minimum 30% less energy annually, and often more. For instance, clothes washers use almost 90% less energy today than they did 30 years ago. In some product classes, efficiency is reaching its current technological limit, and the industry is engaged in efforts to develop new designs to explore possible future efficiency gains. In addition to gains in energy efficiency, manufactures have significantly decreased water use by products such as dishwashers and clothes washers. Our members remain committed to these energy conservation efforts, which have been widely successful over time in meeting conservation goals.
iii. Manufacturers’ Significant Investment in the Energy Star Program AHAM members are active partners in the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. While the DOE appliance standards program is the foundation for energy efficiency standards in the U.S., manufacturers have invested in the voluntary ENERGY STAR program to help consumers in making choices in support of greater energy efficiency. According to EPA’s Annual ENERGY STAR Penetration Report, ENERGY STAR home appliances average approximately 60% penetration of their respective markets based on shipments. This is higher when compared to all ENERGY STAR products, which averages approximately 48% based on shipments.2 Dishwashers lead the way with ENERGY STAR qualified units accounting for 91% of all dishwashers sold in the U.S. Manufacturers continue to strive to offer consumers home appliances with ENERGY STAR ratings year after year. As shown in the graph below, manufacturers maintain a robust portfolio of ENERGY STAR listed products. In some cases, products are reaching their technological limits in terms of efficiency. The table and graph below show current ENERGY STAR market penetration rates and their increase over time. The intermittent drop off in the graphs are due to increases in the stringency of ENERGY STAR specifications.
1 To meet Department of Energy (DOE) energy standards, manufacturers test products according to DOE regulated test procedures, which are reported to meet compliance. 2 ENERGY STAR Unit Shipment and Market Penetration Report Calendar Year 2019 Summary. (2019). Environmental Protection Agency.
Data is not as robust for smaller appliances, but improvements in battery and motor technology has led to efficiency gains here as well. AHAM and its members have worked closely with federal, state, and provincial regulators to develop requirements in support of efficiency improvements in these items.3 The efficiency of food waste disposers is a good example of how efficient motors have become. Similar increases in motor efficiency are taking place in other portable and floor care appliances.
B. Refrigerants and Refrigerant Foam Insulation For 30 years, the home appliance industry has been continuously investing in significant technological innovation to allow for the use of increasingly environmentally friendly refrigerants and blowing agents for insulating foam. The industry transitioned in the 1990s away from chlorflourocarbons (CFCs), which were ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and had a very high global warming potential (GWP), to hydrocloroflourocarbons (HCFC), which had lower global warming effects. In 2000, the industry then transitioned from HCFCs to hydroflourocarbons (HFC), which had no harmful ozone layer effects. Currently, the industry is transitioning to new alternatives with even lower global warming potential. AHAM members have led efforts to move to new refrigerant and refrigerant foam substitutes that offer reduced global warming impacts. In particular, early on an AHAM member petitioned the U.S. EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) to allow the use of isobutane. EPA allowed the use of isobutane in refrigerators in December 2011, benefiting all manufacturers looking to offer consumers products with alternative refrigerants. AHAM and its members have continued to work with EPA to expand the use of low-global warming substances available for use in household refrigerators and freezers.
3 Battery charger regulations exist federally in the U.S., and are under consideration in Canada. California, British Columbia and Ontario currently have efficiency regulations in place. Similarly, the U.S. DOE has efficiency regulations in place for small electric motors.
C. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Facilities GHG emissions reduction at the facility level is a newer initiative for home appliance manufacturers. An initial assessment of AHAM members with facilities in the US and Canada, from respondents to AHAM’s member survey, found direct GHG emissions (Scope I) increased approximately 5% in 2019 when compared to a 2016 baseline. Indirect GHG emissions (Scope II) grew by over 20% over that same period. AHAM members acknowledge the reduction in direct and indirect GHG emissions as a source for ongoing overall sustainable growth, and a number of respondents to AHAM’s member survey indicated they have set and made progress toward achieving significant emissions reductions targets. In fact, close to 90 percent of respondents indicated they set and met GHG reduction targets in 2019, and have set annual reduction targets going as far out as five years from now. Below is a sample of goals and their progress to achieving them from AHAM members:
While AHAM members continue to improve their direct emissions numbers, improvement in Scope II emissions depends on an electrical grid that consists of more renewable sources, making it very difficult for appliance manufacturers to reduce those emissions on their own without compromising their ability to deliver goods to customers. While as an industry, we collectively need to move toward getting all home appliance manufacturers tracking and understanding their GHG emissions footprint, AHAM members are taking this step and moving toward the next by setting significant targets. Furthermore, home appliance manufacturers are developing connected products as part of the revolution in the Internet of Things that will aid in a more efficient energy distribution system.