July 01, 2000
These underappreciated - but growing - consumers of household energy deserve more attention.
Appliance motors—the engines that drive air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, and other home appliances—account for about a quarter of all residential energy use. A new Department of Energy report estimates that in 1995, these motors—most of them less than 1 horsepower (hp)—used approximately 445 billion kWh, or about 4.9 quadrillion Btu of primary energy. Altogether, a home may contain dozens of motors, but consumers rarely think of motors when they look for ways to save household energy. This is because appliance manufacturers, who do not face the energy cost consequences of using inefficient motors in the home, purchase the overwhelming majority of motors for home appliances. Appliance manufacturers do face appliance efficiency standards created by the federal government, however. Minimum appliance energy efficiency standards established under the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) in the early 1990s have led to improved motor efficiencies for many residential appliances—especially refrigerators and freezers. That is why replacing an older refrigerator or freezer can be such a great step for energy efficiency, (see “Monitoring Refrigerator Energy Usage” HE May/June ’00, p. 32). Currently, more ...
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