A new analysis of devices and equipment commonly found in U.S. homes and businesses concludes that these products, with more than 2 billion in use, consume more energy each year than many large countries use to power their entire economies.
Household devices (such as TVs, computers and ceiling fans) and commercial equipment (such as elevators, icemakers and MRI machines) use 7.8 quadrillion Btus each year—more than the primary energy use of Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and 200 other countries. It is more than the amount of oil that the United States imports from the Persian Gulf and Venezuela each year.
All together, these devices are referred to as miscellaneous energy loads (MELs) because they do not fit into traditional energy-use categories, such as refrigeration, heating, ventilating, air conditioning or lighting. This diversity has also meant that attempts to increase the energy efficiency of MELs have varied, with some products having very little or any efficiency measures in place.
The findings come from a recent report, “Miscellaneous Energy Loads in Buildings,” by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit organization acting to advance energy-efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments and behaviors.
The good news is that these devices could be made to use 40 to 50 percent less energy with existing technology, according to the report lead author Sameer Kwatra.
“If consumers upgraded to the most efficient products on the market today, we could save as much energy as Argentina uses in an entire year,” he said.
While some devices (such as ceiling fans) are covered by federal energy-efficiency standards and others (such as computer monitors) are covered under such voluntary efficiency specifications as Energy Star, many products in the MEL category continue to waste energy.
However, interest in improving standards is high. In President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, he identified establishing new goals for energy-efficiency standards as a top priority. Equipment like elevators and escalators and medical devices like MRIs and CT scanners present huge energy-savings opportunities.
“It’s time to consider ways to make every power-hungry device less wasteful,” said Steven Nadel, ACEEE’s executive director.
Besides establishing standards, the report recommends approaches such as encouraging manufacturers to upgrade their products so that the best-performing ones on the market become common. Utilities and other program administrators can also include MELs in their energy efficiency portfolios and behavioral initiatives can be developed to raise awareness and modify consumption habits.