This article was originally published in the January/February 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.
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Home Energy Magazine Online January/February 1993
SPECIAL SECTION ON REFRIGERATORS
NEW STANDARDS BEGIN,
BUT WILL REBATES CONTINUE?
Once the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act put minimum efficiency standards for refrigerators into effect in 1990, some utilities discontinued rebates, figuring the standards raised refrigerator efficiencies so high that paying for further improvements with rebates would not be cost-effective for conserving energy. A common scheme had been to offer higher rebates for progressively more efficient models, for instance $75 for beating the 1990 standard by 15%, $100 for exceeding the standard by 20%, and $150 for 25% beyond the 1990 standard. The tougher 1993 standard requires refrigerators to be nearly 30% more efficient than the 1990 standard.
To illustrate the market response to these standards and rebates, we compared rated electricity consumption to adjusted volume for top-freezer, automatic defrost refrigerators made by the five major manufacturers in mid-1992.1,2 These companies build over 95% of the refrigerators sold in the U.S., and the top-freezer, automatic defrost configuration is the most common type in the U.S., roughly 70% of all models sold. Similar models made by subsidiary brands of these big five makers were omitted.3
As of mid-1992, many models were clustered just beyond the common rebate qualification level--exceeding the 1990 standards by 10% and 20%. In addition, a few models met the 1993 efficiency standard (see Figure 1). (We found a similar pattern in an earlier analysis of models produced in late 1991, with many models meeting the 10% and 20% rebate levels, but no manufacturer meeting the 1993 standard at that time.)
Examining the data more closely, we selected models from the three largest manufacturers in the most popular 16-20 ft3 range. We found that manufacturers had built virtually the same refrigerator models, but with differing energy performances (represented as vertically aligned data points in Figure 2).
This data shows that manufacturers consistently aim for rebate qualification levels. This is particularly true for General Electric and Frigidaire whose models not only meet the 1993 standard, but also achieve a 30% improvement over the 1990 standard--the most ambitious rebate currently available.
Standards provide a uniform benchmark for financial incentives, and these incentives speed improvements beyond the minimum requirements. Although manufacturers would have made improvements after 1990 to meet 1993 standards anyway, rebates accelerate the introduction of more efficient models.
-- John Morrill
1. Adjusted volume = (refrigerator volume x 1.63) + freezer volume. AHAM determines the energy standard for each model according to its adjusted volume.
2.General Electric, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, Admiral, and Amana.
3. The source of this data is the semiannual Directory of Certified Refrigerators and Freezers (June 1992), compiled and published by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. These directories list volume, shelf area, and energy data submitted by manufacturers for models in production at each publication date.
John Morrill is a research associate at the American Council for An Energy Efficient Economy in Washington, D.C.
Figure 1. 1992 Refrigerator Efficiencies
Figure 2. Something for Everyone's Rebate Offer
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